Pampas cats, Leopardus colocolo, have an expansive geographic range. In fact, they have been said to have a greater geographic range than any other South American cat. They are found in the forested slopes of the Andes in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, the cloud forests of Chile, the Paraguayan chaco, open woodland areas of central, western, northeastern, and southern Brazil, the pampas of Argentina and Uruguay, and southern Patagonia. (IUCN, 1996; Silveira, 1995)
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
In the high Andes, although it has been recorded at over 5,000 m (Nowell and Jackson 1996), most records are from lower elevations, in comparison to the similar-appearing Andean cat L. jacobita . In northern Argentina, the mean elevation for pampas cat records was 3,567 +/- 67, as compared to 4,236 +/- 140 for the Andean cat (Perovic et al., 2003).
The physical characteristics of L. colocolo vary across its range in South America. In the high Andes it is gray in color and has reddish stripes that are broken up into spots. In Argentina, the coat of L. colocolo is generally longer and yellow-brown in color with a muted pattern. Long fur is also typical to those individuals living in Brazil, but they tend to be rust colored with black bands on their yellow to orange sides and their lateral underparts.
A three month old male pampas cat from central Brazil that was brought into a zoo had the typical rusty color but also had very dark, irregular stripes over its entire body. By the time it had reached eight months of age, the dorsal and lateral striping had disappeared, and only the stripes on the limbs and underparts remained.
Ears of L. colocolo are large and more pointed than most other small, neotropical cats. Typical head and body length is 435-700 mm, tail length is 220-322 mm, and shoulder height is 300-350 mm. Average weight is 3 to 7 kg.
(IUCN, 1996; Wildlife On Easy Street, 2000; Silveira, 1995)
Range mass: 3 to 7 kg.
Range length: 435 to 700 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Just as the geographic range of the species varies widely, so does the habitat in which it is found. It can be found in open woodland or scrub thicket, cloud forest, cold, semi-arid desert regions, low-lying swamps, floodplains, and mountainous slopes. The only forest regions it has not been found to inhabit throughout its range are lowland tropical and temperate rain forests.(IUCN, 1996; Silveira, 1995)
Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; forest ; scrub forest ; mountains
Habitat and Ecology
L. colocolo preys upon small mammals, such as guinea pigs, as well as ground-dwelling birds. It has been observed taking penguin eggs and chicks from nests. Pampas cats are known to take poultry in areas of human population. (IUCN, 1996; Silveira, 1995; Garman, 1997)
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; eggs
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates, Eats eggs)
As a predator, L. colocolo probably influences the population sizes of prey species.
This species is poorly known, so information on predation and possible anti-predator adaptations is not available.
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Longevity in this species has not been reported. However, other felid species of similar size typically live between 10 and 15 years. (Nowak, 1999)
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
The mating system and behavior of this animal are not known.
L. colocolo in captivity in the northern hemisphere breeds period from April to July. Gestation is from 80 to 85 days, and 1 to 3 young are born per litter. Breeding season in the wild is unknown. (IUCN, 1996; Silveira, 1995)
Breeding season: Breeding occurs from April to July in pampas cats held in captivity in the Northern Hemisphere.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous
As in all mammals, the female provides the young with milk. Specific information on the parental care of this species is lacking, but it is likely that, as with other felids, the young are altricial. They are probably born in a den where they are cared for by their mother until they are able to accompany her on foraging trips.
Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care
L. colocolo is listed in CITES Appendix 2. Habitat destruction across their range is the major threat to this species. The pampas regions of Argentina and Uruguay have been heavily settled and grazed, which is suspected to have had a negative impact on pampas cat populations. Reduction of the prey base of L. colocolo is also a problem.
Trade of pampas cat pelts was ended in 1987. This species is listed as an endangered by the Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e Recursos Naturais Renov·veis. L. colocolo is considered a rare species according to the rarity classification of Rabinowitz, because it is found in a widespread geographic range, is a habitat specialist, and occurs at low population densities.
(IUCN,1996; Garman, 1997)
US Migratory Bird Act: no special status
CITES: appendix ii
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2002Near Threatened
- 1994Indeterminate(Groombridge 1994)
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
L. colocolo has been known to take domestic poultry as prey in areas where it lives near human habitation. (Garman, 1997)
L. colocolo was formerly hunted across its range for its fur. (Garman, 1997)
The colocolo (Leopardus colocolo) is a small spotted and striped cat native to the west Andean slope in central and northern Chile. Until recently, it included the more widespread Pampas cat (L. pajeros) and Pantanal cat (L. braccatus), and some maintain these as subspecies of the colocolo. Confusingly, when these are treated as subspecies of the colocolo, the "combined" species is sometimes referred to as the Pampas cat.
Like most other small cats, the colocolo was formerly included in the genus Felis, but together with Geoffroy's cat and the kodkod, some have placed it in Oncifelis instead. Today, all major authorities place it in Leopardus.
Species and subspecies
As traditionally defined, the colocolo occurs in the widest range of habitats of any small South American felid. This, combined with distinct differences in pelage colour/pattern and cranial measurements, was the basis for splitting the Pantanal cat and Pampas cat from the colocolo. Based on genetic divergence, the splits within the colocolo group are estimated to have occurred about 1.7 million years ago (Mya). This divergence was lower than that found within Geoffroy's cat (about 2 Mya) or the oncilla (about 3.7 Mya; this very high divergence –far higher than other species in the genus– has resulted in some suggesting more than one species is involved in the oncilla). Furthermore, the distribution pattern within the colocolo group based on genetics did not completely match that based on pelage colour/pattern and cranial measurements, and supported some of the traditional subspecific division rather than species division. While the population in northern Chile has been placed in L. colocolo based on cranial measurements, genetics associate it with Pampas cats from Bolivia, and while the population in western Argentina has been placed in the Pampas cat based on pelage colour/pattern and cranial measurements, genetics associate it with the colocolo. More recent genetic analysis also supports maintaining the Pantanal and Pampas cats as subspecies of the colocolo.
Description and habitat
The colocolo is a small, but heavy-set cat, only 56 to 67 cm (22 to 26 in) in body length, with a short 29 to 32 cm (11 to 13 in) tail, and weighing around 3 kg (6.6 lb) on average. The two subspecies differ in their pelage colour and pattern:
- L. c. colocolo (nominate): Reddish or dark grey with rusty-cinnamon stripes on the flanks and two stripes on each cheek, a cinnamon upper side of the ears with black edges and tips, four or five reddish rings on the tail (outer two are darker), dark brown stripes on the legs, black chest spots, and whitish underparts with rusty-ochraceous stripes. It is found in central Chile in subtropical, xerophytic forests at altitudes of up to 1,800 m (5,900 ft).
- L. c. wolffsohni: Similar to nominate, but the flanks have large, reddish brown rosette-shaped spots with darker borders, the upper side of the ears are black with a greyish base and a small grey spot, usually eight rings are on the tail (of the same colour as the flank spots), and the stripes on the legs and spots/stripes on the underparts are very dark brown (almost black). It is found in northern Chile in spiny shrublands and páramo. Of two specimens, one was taken at an altitude between 2,000 and 4,000 m (6,600 and 13,100 ft), and the other at 4,100 m (13,500 ft).
Externally, the colocolo differs from the Pantanal cat in its larger size, and pelage colour and pattern. Some Pampas cats are as large as the colocolo, and some subspecies of the Pampas cats have the same pelage colour and pattern as colocolos of the subspecies L. c. wolffsohni.
Little is known about the colocolo's hunting and breeding habits; however, it is believed to prey mainly on small mammals and birds. Guinea pigs are thought to form a large part of its diet, along with viscachas and other rodents, and tinamous. Though some have suggested it is chiefly nocturnal, others suggest it is mainly diurnal.
Litters are relatively small, usually consisting of only one or two kittens, and occasionally three. The kittens weigh around 130 g (4.6 oz) at birth. The average lifespan is nine years, but some have lived for over 16 years.
The IUCN has only rated the "combined" species (including Pantanal and Pampas cats), in which case the colocolo is considered Near Threatened. Whether the colocolo will receive a higher rating if the Pantanal and Pampas cats are treated as separate species is unclear, but it may be Endangered, and its range is smaller than that of the kodkod, rated as Vulnerable by the IUCN. However, unlike the kodkod, the colocolo is not associated with the highly threatened temperate rainforests found in the region.
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