Lynx lynxEurasian lynx

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Geographic Range

Eurasian lynx are one of the most widely distributed cat species. Their range once extended throughout Russia, Central Asia, and Europe. Today they occupy a range extending from western Europe through the Russian boreal forests and to the Tibetan Plateau and Central Asia. Eurasian lynx distribution is greatly limited by the presence of humans and their activities. They are less frequent in areas with many settlements, roads, railways, and highways as these increase fatality and injury. Also, because they tend to shy away from open areas, lynx distribution is dependent on regions with high forest cover as well as forest connectivity. Deforestation in regions throughout parts of their range limits forest connectivity and hindering dispersal of Lynx lynx throughout Europe and Asia. ("Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe", 2007; "WWF", 2009a; Niedziałkowska, et al., 2006; Schmidt, et al., 2009; Schmidt, 2008)

Habitat

Eurasian lynx live in a variety of habitats. In Europe and Siberia they inhabit forested areas with dense ungulate populations. In Central Asia they are found in open, thinly wooded areas and rocky hills and mountains in desert regions. They are also found in rocky areas and thick woodlands throughout the northern slopes of the Himalayas. ("IUCN RED LIST", 2009; "WWF", 2009b; Niedziałkowska, et al., 2006; Nowell and Jackson, 1996)

Physical Description

Of the four lynx species, Eurasian lynx are the largest. They are also one of the largest predators in Europe, third to only brown bears and grey wolves. Their size ranges from 18 to 36 kg, body length is 70 to 130 cm and shoulder height is 60 to 65 cm. Sexual dimorphism is present, with males being larger and more robust. ("Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe", 2007; "WWF", 2009b; "WWF", 2009a; Nowell and Jackson, 1996)

The coat is varied in grey, rusty, or yellow fur. There are three main coat patterns: spotted, striped, and solid. Among those that are spotted, the pattern ranges among large spots, small spots, and rosettes. Patterns vary widely within and among regions. The belly, the front of the neck, the inside of the limbs, and the ears are whitish. The tail is short, with a solid black tip. Eurasian lynx have long legs, sharp retractable claws, a round face, and triangular ears. Characteristic features of Eurasian lynx are black tufts at the tips of the ears and a prominently flared facial ruff. The paws are large and fur-covered, which helps them to navigate in deep snow. ("Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe", 2007; "IUCN RED LIST", 2009; "WWF", 2009b; "WWF", 2009a; Nowell and Jackson, 1996)

The skull of Eurasian lynx has characteristics typical of other felids : a short rostrum, rounded top, small M1, and lack of M2. They have features shared by other carnivorans as well: large, well-developed canines, and well-developed carnassial teeth. Unlike most other felids, Eurasian lynx have lost one upper premolar giving them the dental formula: I3/3 C1/1 P2/2 M1/1. ("Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe", 2007)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    18 to 36 kg
    39.65 to 79.30 lb
  • Range length
    70 to 130 cm
    27.56 to 51.18 in

Reproduction

Eurasian lynx mating season takes place from February to April of each year. Each female is fertile only about three days during this time. Once a male and receptive female encounter each other, they follow each other for days, copulating many times a day. Once the female is no longer in estrus, the male will leave to find another mate. Females have only one mate per season. ("Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe", 2007; Nowell and Jackson, 1996)

Gestation lasts 67 to 74 days, with females giving birth in May. Breeding interval varies, depending on success of previous season. Females without a litter will breed every year, females with a litter will breed about every 3 years. Typically 2 to 3 cubs comprise a litter, although litter size can range from 1 to 5 kittens. Newborn cubs weigh 300 to 350g and are dependent on their mother for food and protection. They are weaned at 4 months and become independent at around 10 months. Females become sexually mature at 2 years of age and can remain so up to 14 years of age, whereas males mature at 3 years of age and can reproduce up to age 17. ("Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe", 2007; "WWF", 2009a; Nowell and Jackson, 1996)

  • Breeding interval
    Eurasian lynx males breed once yearly. Females breed once a year when there is no litter, and every three years when they successfully breed.
  • Breeding season
    Eurasian lynx breed from February to April.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 5
  • Average number of offspring
    2 to 3
  • Average number of offspring
    2
    AnAge
  • Range gestation period
    67 to 74 days
  • Average gestation period
    69 days
  • Average weaning age
    4 months
  • Average time to independence
    10 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    639 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    1004 days
    AnAge

Females find a safe den space for their kittens, as in a hollow log or crevice. Females nurse and protect their young until independence. Once the cubs are old enough to travel they accompany the mother on hunting trips to learn how to hunt for themselves. Males do not contribute to the care of offspring. ("Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe", 2007; Nowell and Jackson, 1996; Valdmann, et al., 2004)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Eurasian lynx can survive up to 17 years in the wild and 24 years in captivity. Juvenile mortality rate is high. ("Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe", 2007; Nowell and Jackson, 1996; Valdmann, et al., 2004)

Behavior

As solitary creatures, the only long lasting relationship formed in Eurasian lynx is between mother and cubs. They are most active during early morning and the evening. When they are not active, they spend their time resting under the cover of thick brush, tall grasses, or in trees. They are mainly terrestrial but are adept at climbing and swimming. ("Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe", 2007; "WWF", 2009b; Nowell and Jackson, 1996)

  • Range territory size
    25 to 2800 km^2
  • Average territory size
    100-300 km^2

Home Range

Individual home ranges can range from 25 to 2800 square kilometers, depending on habitat, density, and prey availability. Female territories range from 100 to 200 square kilometers, males occupy ranges of 240 to 280 square kilometers. Female choice of territory is based on prey and habit resources needed to raise offspring. They occupy smaller ranges when they are caring for a litter. Home ranges may overlap greatly with their daughters and slightly with other females. Males choose territories to give them ample access to females and their home ranges will sometimes overlap with 1 or 2 females and her cubs. Home ranges of both sexes tend to be inversely proportional to prey availability, increasing as prey population declines. Ranges are also larger when area of preferred habitat is greater. ("Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe", 2007; Herfindal, et al., 2005; Nowell and Jackson, 1996)

Communication and Perception

Little is known about communication among Eurasian lynx. Their vocalizations are low and not often heard. They have keen eyesight and hearing, mainly used to locate prey and potential mates. Males and females mark their home territories with gland secretions and urine. (Nowell and Jackson, 1996)

Food Habits

Like other members of the family Felidae, Eurasian lynx are strict carnivores, consuming only meat. Other Lynx species are specialized rabbit and hare hunters. Eurasian lynx prey primarily on ungulates. Small ungulates such as roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), musk deer (g. Moschus species) and chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) comprise most of their diet, but they have been known to prey on ungulates as large as elk and caribou in winter due to the prey’s vulnerability in deep snow. Eurasian lynx also supplement their diet with red foxes, rabbits and hares, rodents and birds. They kill prey up to 3 to 4 times their size and consume 1 to 2 kg of meat per day. Eurasian lynx stalk their prey from the cover of thick vegetation, using stealth to get close without being seen. They then pounce on prey, delivering a fatal bite to the neck or biting down on the snout until the animal suffocates. The kill is then taken to thick cover or fallen logs to be eaten in privacy. Prey that is not eaten right away is cached to be consumed later. ("Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe", 2007; "IUCN RED LIST", 2009; "WWF", 2009b; "WWF", 2009a; Schmidt, et al., 2009; Schmidt, 2008)

Eurasian lynx occur sympatrically with three other large predators throughout most of their range: grey wolves, brown bears, and wolverines. Brown bears are mainly omnivorous and don't compete strongly with lynx for prey. Where wolves and and Eurasian lynx co-occur, they generally coexist peacefully with neither of the two showing avoidance or attraction. This has been attributed to differences in primary prey selection and hunting styles. Grey wolves are larger than Eurasian lynx and primarily hunt red deer, while Eurasian lynx focus on roe deer and smaller ungulates. Eurasian lynx are solitary hunters, concealing themselves in thick vegetation, fallen logs, and snow to ambush prey. Conversely, grey wolves are pack hunters and found in a wider variety of habitats. Competition between these species may occur in areas where roe deer, red deer, or other ungulate prey is scarce. This may cause changes in hunting behavior and has contributed to sporadic intraguild predation of Eurasian lynx by grey wolves. (Schmidt, et al., 2009; Schmidt, 2008)

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats terrestrial vertebrates
  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals

Predation

Eurasian lynx have no natural predators, but there have been cases of intermittent killings by tigers, wolves, and wolverines.

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Eurasian lynx are the third largest carnivores throughout most of their range. As such they have the ability to influence the population sizes, distribution, and behaviors of some prey species. Ungulates make up the majority of their diets and they can consume 1 to 2.5 kg of meat per day. In regions where game hunting isn't practiced, Eurasian lynx may play a role in controlling deer populations. They can kill from 10 to 40% of roe deer, red deer, and chamois populations annually. This is highly dependent on lynx density, ungulate density, and other causes of ungulate mortality. The greatest impact is usually seen in roe deer and chamois populations. Eurasian lynx are also affected by numerous internal and external parasites. ("Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe", 2007; Molinari-Jobin, et al., 2002)

Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Eurasian lynx came close to being endangered in the early 1900's as a result of hunting for fur. Currently, commercial hunting is illegal in all countries except Russia and Eurasian lynx are protected in Afghanistan, where all hunting and trading is illegal. However, illegal fur trades occur in some countries. In regions where game hunting isn't practiced, Eurasian lynx may play a role in controlling deer populations. ("Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe", 2007; "IUCN RED LIST", 2009)

  • Positive Impacts
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Throughout most of their range, Eurasian lynx are the third largest predators. They typically do not attack humans unless injured, trapped, or ill. Humans sometimes complain that Eurasian lynx reduce game abundance and kill livestock and domestic animals. In most European countries programs have been set up for farmers and herders to compensate them for losses. ("Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe", 2007)

Conservation Status

Habitat loss due to deforestation, prey loss due to game hunting, and illegal hunting and trapping for the fur trade are the main threats to Lynx lynx. Commercial hunting is illegal in all countries except Russia and Eurasian lynx are protected in Afghanistan, where all hunting and trading is illegal. In the 1960’s and 70’s, some Eurasian lynx were re-introduced into Germany, France, Austria, and Switzerland. These populations have been successful in some areas. ("Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe", 2007; "IUCN RED LIST", 2009)

Other Comments

There are many described subspecies of lynx, although there is no agreed upon subspecies classification. Subspecies include:

Lynx lynx lynx, found in Scandinavia, eastern Europe, and western Siberia.

Lynx lynx carpathicus, found in the Carpathian Mountains and central Europe.

Lynx lynx martinoi, found in the Balkans.

Lynx lynx dinniki, found in the Caucasus.

Lynx lynx wardi, found in the Altai mountains.

Lynx lynx wrangeli, found in eastern Siberia.

Lynx lynx isabellinus, found in central Asia.

Lynx lynx kozlovi, found in Central Siberia.

Lynx lynx stroganovi, found in the Amur region. ("Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe", 2007)

The name lynx is thought to stem from Lynceus in Greek mythology who was said to be so sharp sighted that he could see through the earth. This is in reference to the keen eyesight of lynxex. Lynx are the national animals of Romania and Macedonia.

Contributors

Harmonie Foster (author), Case Western Reserve University, Darin Croft (editor, instructor), Case Western Reserve University, Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

crepuscular

active at dawn and dusk

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

induced ovulation

ovulation is stimulated by the act of copulation (does not occur spontaneously)

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

polymorphic

"many forms." A species is polymorphic if its individuals can be divided into two or more easily recognized groups, based on structure, color, or other similar characteristics. The term only applies when the distinct groups can be found in the same area; graded or clinal variation throughout the range of a species (e.g. a north-to-south decrease in size) is not polymorphism. Polymorphic characteristics may be inherited because the differences have a genetic basis, or they may be the result of environmental influences. We do not consider sexual differences (i.e. sexual dimorphism), seasonal changes (e.g. change in fur color), or age-related changes to be polymorphic. Polymorphism in a local population can be an adaptation to prevent density-dependent predation, where predators preferentially prey on the most common morph.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

stores or caches food

places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"

tactile

uses touch to communicate

taiga

Coniferous or boreal forest, located in a band across northern North America, Europe, and Asia. This terrestrial biome also occurs at high elevations. Long, cold winters and short, wet summers. Few species of trees are present; these are primarily conifers that grow in dense stands with little undergrowth. Some deciduous trees also may be present.

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

territorial

defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

2007. "Eurasian Lynx Online Information System for Europe" (On-line). Accessed November 19, 2009 at http://www.kora.ch/en/proj/elois/online/index.html.

2009. "IUCN RED LIST" (On-line). Accessed November 08, 2009 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/12519/0.

2009. "WWF" (On-line). Accessed November 10, 2009 at http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/finder/eurasianlynx/eurasianlynx.html.

2009. "WWF" (On-line). Accessed November 10, 2009 at http://www.panda.org/about_our_earth/species/eurasian_lynx/.

Herfindal, I., Linnell, J. Odden, . Birkeland Nilsen, R. Andersen. 2005. Prey density, environmental productivity and home-range size in the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx). Journal of Zoology, 265: 63-71.

Molinari-Jobin, A., . Molinari,, C. Breitenmoser-Würsten, U. Breitenmoser. 2002. Significance of lynx Lynx lynx predation for roe deer Capreolus capreolus and chamois Rupicapra rupicapra mortality in the Swiss Jura Mountains. Widlife Biology, 8/2: 109-115.

Niedziałkowska, M., W. Jedrzejewski, R. Mysłajek, S. Nowak, B. Jedrzejewska. 2006. Environmental correlates of Eurasian lynx occurrence in Poland – Large scale census and GIS mapping. Biological Conservation, 133: 63-60.

Nowell, K., P. Jackson. 1996. Wild Cats: Status survey and conservation action plan. Cambridge, U.K.: IUCN: The Burlington Press.

Schmidt, K. 2008. Factors shaping the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) population in the northeastern Poland. Na t u r e C o n s e r v a t i o n, 65: 3-15.

Schmidt, K., W. Jedrzejewski, H. Okarma, R. Kowalczyk. 2009. Spatial interactions between grey wolves and Eurasian lynx in Białowie_za Primeval Forest, Poland. Ecology Research, 24: 207-214.

Valdmann, H., E. Moks, H. Talvik. 2004. Helminth Fauna of Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx) in Estonia. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 40(2): 356-360.