Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Almost all information on the biology and ecology of this cat comes from a handful of animals in captivity and fewer than 20 specimens collected from the wild. Anecdotal reports suggest the species is nocturnal, but activity patterns in captivity have been recorded as more crepuscular. The diet is thought to contain fish, frogs and crustaceans, but it has also been suggested that individuals can survive in oil-palm plantations by hunting rodents (4). Like other cats, this species is probably solitary, maintaining its territory by scent-marking. Only three litters have ever been recorded in captivity, one consisting of two kittens, the other two of a single kitten (4). Litters of one to four kittens are thought to be usual, as adult females have four sets of nipples. A kitten was found in the wild in January and it is believed that the gestation period is about 56 days (7). Captive animals have lived to 14 years of age (4).
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Description

Its distinctly elongated, flattened head and small, rounded ears, make this unusual member of the cat family bear a strong resemblance to the civets, which are not cats, but members of the Viverridae family (4) (5). About the size of a domestic cat, the flat-headed cat has a long body, short legs and a short, thickly-furred tail (5). Even more than the fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrina), the flat-headed cat appears remarkably adapted to a semi-aquatic, fish-eating lifestyle (6). Partial webbing between the toes help the animal to move through water, and the long, narrow jaws and pointed, backward-facing teeth aid the catching and holding of slippery prey such as fish and frogs. The thick, soft coat is reddish-brown on the top of the head and dark brown on the body, finely speckled with grey and buff on the tips (5). The belly is mottled white, spotted and splashed with brown, and the insides of the limbs are reddish-brown, fading towards the feet (2). The muzzle, chin and cheeks are white, with two dark streaks on each cheek and prominent white stripes between and below the large brown eyes (5).
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Flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps)

Almost all information about the flat-headed is based on a few animals collected from the wild or kept in captivity.

Muul and Lim (13) said the flat-headed cat is the ecological counterpart of a semi-aquatic mustelid. The cat seems to be adapted to a semi-aquatic, fish-eating lifestyle (4). It has specialised features to help it catch and retain aquatic prey, to which it is at least as well adapted as the fishing cat. The long, slender body has delicate, lengthened extremities. The elongated, flattened head is more cylindrical than in the domestic cat. The sides of the long, sloping snout are laterally distended. The distance between the eyes and ears is comparatively great. The nasals are short and narrow, the rostrum is long and narrow and there are nearly parallel tooth rows. The large, brown eyes are very far forward and close together, compared with other cats, giving improved stereoscopic vision. The small, rounded ears are set widely apart and are lower than the apex of the skull. The cat has relatively powerful, long, narrow jaws and has sharper teeth than its close relatives. The well developed sagittal crest and robust zygomatic arches indicate great biting power. The very long, pointed, backward-facing teeth help the cat catch and hold slippery prey such as fish and frogs. The canines are nearly as long as in a cat double the size (4) The well-developed first and second upper premolars are larger and sharper relative to other cats and are specialized so the cat can seize and grip slippery prey with the front of its mouth. The legs are fairly short with long, narrow feet. The claws are retractable, but the covering sheaths are so reduced in size that about two-thirds of the claws are left protruding (2) The inter-digital webs on the paws help the cat gain better traction as it moves about in muddy environments and water and are more pronounced than those on the paws of the fishing cat and have long, narrow foot pads (6). Males are slightly larger than females. The male has a head-and-body length of 42- 50 cm, a tail length of 13-20 cm and weight of 1.5-2.75 kg; the female head-and-body length is 33-37 cm, the tail length 15-17cm and the weight averages 1.5 kg. The long, thick fur is reddish-brown on top of the head, dark roan brown on the back and mottled white on the undersides, which are spotted and splashed with brown. The face is lighter in color than the body and the muzzle, cheeks and chin are white. The eyelids and inner side of each eye are whitish but do not form a complete eye-ring. Two dark stripes run along each side of the head, one from the corner of the eye to below the ear and the other from below the eye to below the ear. Two buff whitish streaks run on either side of the nose between the eyes. The lower vibrissae are white, while the upper vibrissae are black at the base and white at the tips. The hair between the ears is short. The insides of the limbs are reddish-brown, fading towards the feet. Individual hairs have white, buff or grey tips, giving a grizzled appearance.

The cat occurs sporadically in Sumatra, Borneo and the Malayan peninsula (Malaysia and extreme southern Thailand) (1). It is mostly a lowland primary tropical forest or scrub species, living on or near riverbanks, streams, swampy areas, oxbow lakes and riverine forests up to 700 m above sea level (2,6,9,19). It also occurs in peat-swamp forest (9), mud-banks, secondary forest (9) and disturbed primary and secondary forests and in flooded areas. In Malaysia, it also lives in oil palm plantations (5,6,14). Over 80% of the records gathered by Wilting et al. (5) were from elevations below 100 m above sea levll; over 70 % were within 3 km of larger water sources.

The cat seems to be nocturnal, being seen at night or early morning, near water (6,9). Captives may be more crepuscular (2). It is probably solitary, maintaining its territory by scent-marking. The eyes are farther forward on the head and closer together than those of other cats. This maximizes binocular vision, helping the cat find and catch food in water. The cat probably maintains territories by scent-marking. Most cats point their rear ends at a tree or bush, raise their tails to an upward position in order to spray urine. Captive flat-headed cats raise their tails to half-mast, crouch with their hind legs and walk forward while leaving a trail of urine on the ground (18). Some calls may resemble the vibration made by pulling a thumb along the teeth of a comb, but others may resemble those of the domestic cat. Adults purr and produce other short-range vocalizations (16). Kittens may make sounds like those of a domestic cat.

The cat probably feeds mainly on fish, as well as frogs and crustaceans, found along mud-banks and in rivers (2). It can submerge its head up to 12 cm under water to seize prey. It has been suggested that it can survive in oil-palm plantations by hunting rodents (1). Captives preyed on live frogs but ignored sparrows in their cages. Individuals often 'wash' objects in water. Captives snarl as they pounce on food. They carry it at least 2 m away from where it is presented. This may stop fish and frogs escaping back into the water. Captive adults may grope along the bottom of a pool with their forepaws spread wide, like raccoons.Captive adults kill rats and mice with a bite to the nape but quickly toss the rodent between bites, repeating the action again and again. The cat may take birds, small rodents and domestic poultry (6). As the cat is so rare, its role as a predator likely has little impact on the population dynamics of prey species. Captives show much greater interest in potential prey in the water than on dry land, suggesting a strong preference for riverine hunting in their natural habitat (13) A mouse in a bathtub excited captives more than one on dry land, as the cats stood in the water or next to the tub and tried to fish out the mouse with their mouth or paws.

The cat is host to flatworms and roundworms. Its nocturnal behaviour and coloration probably help to reduce the risk of predation.

Litters in captivity consist of one or two kittens (1), but the cat may have litters of one to four kittens, as adult females have four sets of teats. A kitten was found in the wild in January and it is thought that the gestation period is about 56 days (2). The young are probably altricial. The mothers nurse the cubs until weaning is complete. Captives live up to 14 years (1,2,6).

The Red List Assessment of the species is 'Endangered' (2,17) on CITES Appendix I (5); until 2008, it was classified as Insufficiently Known. It is fully protected by national legislation over most of its range, with hunting and trade prohibited in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand (6) and hunting regulated in Singapore (14), but no legal protection is afforded in Brunei, Borneo (7). The cat has a patchy distributrion and was declared extinct in 1985, until it was sighted in Malaysia. It was seen on the Merang River in southeast Sumatra in 1995 (2), where fishermen described it as common (9), although they tend to use a single generic term for both flat-headed and leopard cats (10). The primary threat is wetland and lowland forest and mangrove destruction and degradation (3,5,6) to create human settlements and plantations. Other threats include draining for agriculture; water pollution by oil, organochlorines and heavy metals linked with agricultural run-off and logging activities, which contaminate prey (14); hunting, wood-cutting, fishing and the expansion of oil palm plantations (5,7). Wilting et al. (5) found no support that this cat can live in oil palm plantations and suggested that over 70% of its predicted historical suitable habitat has been transformed to unsuitable habitats. If the cat is adaptable and can survive in palm-oil plantations, it could cope with considerable habitat disturbance and its future may be less bleak (5). Trapping, snaring and poisoning are also threats (2). E. Bennett (2) said skins were often seen in longhouses in Sarawak; skins have doubtful economic importance, but body parts are valuable. Flat-headed cats are captured in traps set out to protect domestic fowl (6). The effective population size could be below 2,500 mature individuals, with no subpopulation having an effective population size above 250 (15). Rates of habitat loss and the threatened status of many wetlands in its range suggest a continuing decline in the population of at least 20% over the next 12 years (2 generations). The cat may be especially vulnerable due to its apparent association with watercourses (1), which are often exploited to be used for settlements and agriculture (3). Conservation of this cat depends on habitat protection and better understanding of its ecology and status in lowland and wetland forests with species specific field surveys focusing on these habitats. Like some other small cats, it was placed in the genus Felis, but is now considered one of five species in Prionailurus. (1,14).The flat-headed cat was placed in the genus Felis by Vigors and Horsfield, who described it in 1827 from Sumatra (4) In 1951, Ellerman and Morrison-Scott grouped Felis planiceps with Felis viverrina, the fishing cat, as being distributed in Lower Siam, the Malay States, Sumatra and Borneo, and recorded from Patani (32). In 1961, it was subordinated to the genus Prionailurus by the German biologist Weigel who compared fur pattern of wild and domestic felids (11). In 1997, researchers from the National Cancer Institute confirmed this taxonomic ranking following their phylogenetic studies (8). Flat-headed cats are very rare in captivity; ISIS records fewer than 10 captives, all kept in Malaysian and Thai zoos (3)

  • 1) Nowak, R. (editor) 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. 6th edition. ISBN 0-8018-5789-9
  • 2) Sunquist, M., Sunquist, F. (2002). Wild Cats of the World. The University of Chicago Press. pp. 233–236. ISBN 0-226-77999-8.
  • 3) International Species Information System (2011) Captive Prionailurus planiceps.
  • 4) Vigors, N. A., Horsfield, T. (1827) Description of two Species of the genus Felis, in the collection of the Zoological Society. The Zoological Journal Vol. III: 449–450.
  • 5) Wilting, A., Hearn, A., Sanderson, J., Ross, J. and Sunarto, S. (2010). "Prionailurus planiceps". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
  • 6) Nowell, K., Jackson, P. (1996) Flat-headed Cat. Prionailurus planiceps. In: Wild Cats: status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland. http://carnivoractionplans1.free.fr/wildcats.pdf.
  • 7) IUCN Cats Red List workshop assessment (2007)
  • 8) Johnson, Warren E.; O’Brien, Stephen J. (1997). "Phylogenetic reconstruction of the felidae using 16S rRNA and NADH-5 mitochondrial genes". Journal of Molecular Evolution 44: S98–116. doi:10.1007/PL00000060. PMID 9071018.
  • 9) Bezuijen, M. (2000). The occurrence of the flat-headed cat Prionailurus planiceps in south-east Sumatra. Oryx, 34/3: 222-226.
  • 10) Bezuijen, M. (2003). The flat-headed cat in the Merang river region of south Sumatra. Cat News 38: 26-27.
  • 11) Weigel, I. (1961) Das Fellmuster der wildlebenden Katzenarten und der Hauskatze in Vergleichender und Stammesgeschicher Hinsicht. Säugetierkundliche Mitteilungen 9: 1–120.
  • 12) Ellerman, J. R., Morrison-Scott, T. C. S. (1966) Checklist of Palaearctic and Indian mammals 1758 to 1946. Second edition. British Museum of Natural History, London, p. 314.
  • 13) Muul, I., Lim, B. L. (1970). "Ecological and morphological observations of Felis planiceps". Journal of Mammalogy 51 (4): 806–808. doi:10.2307/1378310. JSTOR 1378310.
  • 14) Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 543. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  • 15) IUCN (2007)
  • 16) Peters, G. (1981) Das Schnurren der Katzen. Säugetierkundliche Mitteilungen 29: 30–37.
  • 17) Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. & Schipper, J. Payne, J., Françis, C. M., Phillipps, K. (1998) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo. Sabah Society. 3rd reprint, ISBN 967-99947-1-6
  • 18) Leyhausen, P. (1979) Cat behaviour. The predatory and social behaviour of domestic and wild cats. Garland STPM Press; New York ISBN 0-8240-7017-8.
  • 19) Payne, J., C.M. Françis and K. Phillipps (1998) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo. Sabah Society. 3rd reprint, ISBN 967-99947-1-6
  • Other references
  • Cameron, T. 1928. On Some Parasites of the Rusty Tiger Cat (Felis planiceps). Journal of Helminthology, 6/2: 87-98.
  • Francis, C. (2001) A Photographic Guide to Mammals of South-east Asia including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Java, Sumatra, Bali and Borneo. ISBN 1859745075
  • Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, and T. A. Dewey. 2006. The Animal Diversity Web (online). http://www.animaldiversity.org
  • Peters, G., B. Tonkin-Leyhausen. 1999. Evolution of acoustic communication signals of mammals: friendly close-range vocalizations in Felidae (Carnivora). Journal of Mammalian Evolution, 6/2: 129-159.
  • "Prionailurus planiceps" (2010). ARKive. http://www.arkive.org/flat-headed-cat/prionailurus-planiceps/.
  • Wilting, A., Cord, A., Hearn, A. J., Hesse, D., Mohamed A., Traeholdt, C., Cheyne, S. M., Sunarto, S., Jayasilan, M., Ross, J., Shapiro, A. C., Sebastian, A., Dech, S., Breitenmoser, C., Sanderson, J., Duckworth, J. W., Hofer, H. (2010b). "Modelling the Species Distribution of Flat-Headed Cats (Prionailurus planiceps), an Endangered South-East Asian Small Felid". PLoS ONE 5 (3): 1-18; e9612. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009612. PMC 2840020. PMID 20305809.
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Distribution

Range Description

The Flat-headed Cat has a restricted distribution, found only on Sumatra, Borneo and the Malayan peninsula (Malaysia and extreme southern Thailand). It is a lowland species strongly associated with wetlands (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). The map is adapted from Wilting et al. (2010); this online publication includes other more detailed maps as well.
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Historic Range:
Malaysia, Indonesia

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Geographic Range

Flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) sporadically occur throughout the southern Malay Peninsula (Malaysia and extreme southern Thailand), Sumatra, and Borneo.

Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )

  • Lekagul, B., J. McNeely. 1988. Mammals of Thailand. Bangkok: Association for the Conservation of Wildlife.
  • Sunquist, M., F. Sunquist. 2002. Wild Cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Payne, J., C. Francis. 1994. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia: Sabah Society.
  • Wilting, A., A. Hearn, J. Sanderson, J. Ross, S. Sunarto. 2010. "Prionailurus planiceps" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed April 17, 2011 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/18148/0.
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Range

Formerly recorded from southern Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra (Indonesia), and Borneo (4), the flat-headed cat was declared extinct in 1985, until it was sighted again in Malaysia, and also later on the Merang River in southeast Sumatra in 1995 (7).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Flat-headed cats are small, about the size of a domestic cat. The tail is short, measuring only a quarter to a third of the head and body length. They have small, rounded ears that set widely apart and lower than the apex of the skull. They have long fur that is thick and soft. The pelage is reddish brown on top of the head, dark brown on the dorsum, and mottled white on the venter. Individual hairs have white, buff, or gray tips, giving them a grizzled appearance. The face is paler than the body and the muzzle, chin, and chest are white. Their eyelids and the inner side of each eye are whitish but do not form a complete eye-ring, and two dark stripes run along each side of the head, one from the corner of the eye to below the ear and the other from below the eye to below the ear. The lower vibrissae are completely white, whereas the upper vibrissae are black at the base and white at the tips. The head is distinctly elongated and flattened relative to other cats. Hair between the ears is quite short; this, combined with the low setting of the ears, gives the cat a flat-headed appearance. The legs are short relative to other cats, and the feet are long and narrow. The claws, as in the fishing cat and the cheetah, cannot be fully retracted. The nasals are short and narrow, placing the eyes farther forward and closer together than those of other cats. A long and narrow rostrum, nearly parallel tooth rows and well developed first and second upper premolars all specialize the cat for seizing and gripping slippery prey with the anterior portion of its mouth. Meanwhile, the sagittal crest is well developed and the zygomatic arches are robust, indicating great biting power. Flat-headed cats are sexually dimorphic, as males are slightly larger than females. Male head-and-body length ranges from 42 to 50 cm, tail length from 13 to 20 cm, and weight from 1.5 to 2.75 kg; female head-and-body length ranges from 33 to 37 cm, tail length from 15 to 17cm, and weight averages 1.5 kg.

Range mass: 1.5 to 2.75 kg.

Range length: 48 to 70 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Very little is known about this species, with only a handful of observations and camera trap records. Available information suggets that, like its close relative the fishing cat, the flat-headed cat is strongly associated with wetlands and preys primarily on fish. Stomach contents of two dead animals contained mostly fish, and also shrimp shells. They may also take birds and small rodents, and have been reported to prey on domestic poultry (Nowell and Jackson 1996).

Most records for the Flat-headed Cat are from swampy areas, lakes and streams, and riverine forest (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Yasuda et al. 2007). They also occur in peat-swamp forest (Bezuijen 2000), and have been observed in secondary forest (Bezuijen 2000, Bezuijen 2003, Meijaard et al. 2005, Mohamed et al. 2009). All published observations of live animals have taken place at night or early morning, near water (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Bezuijen 2000, Bezuijen 2003, Meijaard et al. 2005, Yasuda et al. 2007). Over 80% of the records gathered by Wilting et al. (2010) were from elevations below 100 m asl, and over 70 % were recorded within a distance of 3 km to larger water sources.

The Flat-headed Cat takes its name from its unusually long, sloping snout and flattened skull roof, with small ears set well down the sides of its head. It has large, close-set eyes, and relatively longer and sharper teeth than its close relatives. Its claws do not fully retract into their shortened sheaths, and its toes are more completely webbed than the fishing cat's, with long narrow foot pads. Muul and Lim (1970), commenting on the cat's feet and other features, termed it the ecological counterpart of a semi-aquatic mustelid.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Flat-headed cats occupy lowland tropical forests and freshwater habitats. Specimens have been collected in disturbed primary and secondary forests, along rivers and streams, and in flooded areas. In Malaysia, they also live in oil palm plantations, and in Sumatra, they have been sighted in secondary lowland forest.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

Other Habitat Features: agricultural ; riparian

  • Bezuijen, M. 2000. The occurrence of the flat-headed cat Prionailurus planiceps in south-east Sumatra. Oryx, 34/3: 222-226.
  • Nowell, K., P. Jackson. 1996. "Wild Cats: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan" (On-line pdf). IUCN - Species Survival Commission (SSC) Species Action Plans. Accessed April 17, 2011 at http://carnivoractionplans1.free.fr/wildcats.pdf.
  • Wilting, A., A. Cord, A. Hearn, D. Hesse, A. Mohamed, C. Traeholdt, S. Cheyne, S. Sunarto, M. Jayasilan, J. Ross, A. Shapiro, A. Sebastian, S. Dech, C. Breitenmoser, J. Sanderson, J. Duckworth, H. Hofer. 2010. Modelling the species distribution of flat-headed cats (Prionailurus planiceps), an endangered South-East Asian small felid. PLoS ONE, 5/3: 1-18.
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Very little is known about this species in the wild, but most records come from tropical forest or scrub on or near riverbanks, swampy areas, oxbow lakes and riverine forests, below 700 meters above sea level, although it has also been sighted in oil-palm plantations in Malaysia (1) (2) (8).
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Flat-headed cats have been seen on mud-banks and along rivers, where they were probably hunting for frogs, fish, or crustaceans. Stomach content analysis shows a primary diet of fish. Flat-headed cats can submerge their head up to 12 centimeters under water to seize prey, and in studies with captive individuals, they preyed upon live frogs but ignored sparrows placed in their cages. Individuals often 'wash' objects in water, similar to raccoons. When offered food, captive individuals pounce on it while snarling, and always carry it at least 2 meters away from where it was presented -- a behavior that may keep fish and frogs from escaping back into the water. Furthermore, captive adult animals were observed groping along the bottom of a pool with their forepaws spread wide, also like raccoons. A mouse in a bathtub excited captive cats more than a mouse on dry land, as the cats stood either in the water or next to the tub and attempted to fish out the mouse with their mouth or paws. In captivity, adult flat-headed cats kill rats and mice with a bite to the nape but quickly toss the rodent between bites, repeating the action again and again.

Animal Foods: mammals; amphibians; fish

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates, Piscivore )

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Because flat-headed cats are so rare, their role as a predator likely has little impact on the population dynamics of prey species. Its behavioral and morphological adaptations, as well as the niche that it fills, render it similar to a semi-aquatic mustelid, unique among cats. Flat headed-cats are host to flatworms and roundworms.

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • Cameron, T. 1928. On Some Parasites of the Rusty Tiger Cat (Felis planiceps). Journal of Helminthology, 6/2: 87-98.
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Predation

No information regarding potential predators of Prionailurus planiceps is available. Their nocturnal behavior and coloration likely helps reduce risk of predation.

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Known prey organisms

Prionailurus planiceps preys on:
Arthropoda
Amphibia
Aves
Mammalia

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

The position of the eyes, farther forward on the head and closer together than those of other cats, maximizes binocular vision, optimizing flat-headed cats for finding and catching food in water. Like other felids, flat-headed cats probably maintain territories by scent-marking. In captivity, both males and females spray urine in a manner that is unusual among felids. Most cats point their rear ends at a tree or bush, raise their tails to an upward position, and spray. Flat-headed cats raise their tails to half-mast, crouch with their hind legs, and walk forward while leaving a trail of urine. The calls of a flat-headed cat cubs are often compared to the vibration made by pulling a thumb along the teeth of a comb, though these vocalizations were also reported to resemble those of the domestic cat. Adults purr and produce other short-range vocalizations. The vocalizations of flat-headed cats have yet to be thoroughly investigated.

Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

  • Leyhausen, P. 1979. Cat Behavior: the Predatory and Social Behavior of Domestic and Wild Cats. New York: Garland STPM Press.
  • Peters, G., B. Tonkin-Leyhausen. 1999. Evolution of acoustic communication signals of mammals: friendly close-range vocalizations in Felidae (Carnivora). Journal of Mammalian Evolution, 6/2: 129-159.
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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

No information is available on the lifespan of Prionailurus planiceps in the wild, though a single captive specimen reportedly lived for 14 years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
14 (high) years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 14 years (captivity) Observations: One wild born specimen was about 14 years old when it died in captivity (Richard Weigl 2005). Maximum longevity could be slightly underestimated, though, because similar species appear to live slightly longer.
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Reproduction

As flat-headed cats are extremely rare and elusive, information about their mating system is not available.

Only limited information is available on the general reproductive behavior of flat-headed cats. Gestation lasts for approximately 56 days; however, this estimate was based on a single individual. More information is available on other, more common Prionailurus species. For exmple, fishing cats have no fixed breeding season, though mating is most common between January and February. Leopard cats mate at any time of year in the southern part of their range, where they overlap with flat-headed cats. Both closely related species produce 2 to 4 kittens after a gestation period of 60 to 70 days. Fishing cats begin weaning at 2 months and are completely weaned by 6 months, and sexual maturity is reached by 15 months. The leopard cat begins weaning at 1 month and reaches sexual maturity by 18 months.

Average gestation period: 56 days.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous

Information on parental care in flat-headed cats is lacking. However, like all mammals, mothers nurse cubs until weaning is complete. Young are likely altricial, as with most other felids. Other Prionailurus species care for their offspring in secluded dens until they are able to accompany her on foraging trips. Once young learn to hunt, they disperse shortly thereafter.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • Sunquist, M., F. Sunquist. 2002. Wild Cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • 1996. "CSG Species Accounts: Flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps)" (On-line). IUCN / Species Survival Commission (SSC) Cat Specialist Group (CSG). Accessed April 17, 2011 at http://www.catsg.org/catsgportal/cat-website/catfolk/plani-01.htm.
  • Muul, I., B. Lim. 1970. Ecological and morphological observations of Felis planiceps. Journal of Mammalogy, 51/4: 806-808.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
C1+2a(i)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2010

Assessor/s
Wilting, A., Hearn, A., Sanderson, J., Ross, J. & Sunarto, S.

Reviewer/s
Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. & Schipper, J.

Contributor/s

Justification
The Flat-headed Cat has a restricted and patchy distribution around wetlands in lowland forest on the islands of Sumatra, Borneo and the Malayan peninsula. Current status distribution is limited to presence/absence data, and there are few records in comparison with sympatric small felids. Wetland destruction and degradation is the primary threat faced by the species (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Over 45% of protected wetlands and 94% of globally significant wetlands in Southeast Asia are considered threatened (Dugan 1993). Causes include human settlement, draining for agriculture, pollution, and excessive hunting, wood-cutting and fishing. In addition, clearance of coastal mangroves over the past decade has been rapid. The depletion of fish stocks from over-fishing is prevalent and is likely to be a significant threat. Over 1.3 million ha of lowland forest are deforested annually on the island of Borneo, a rate which would result in their disappearance over the next 10-20 years (Rautner et al. 2007). Malaysia and Indonesia are the world's largest producers of palm oil (Koh and Wilcove 2007), and Southeast Asia has had the world's highest deforestation rate for years (FAO 2007). While there have been observations of Flat-headed Cats in secondary forests (Bezuijen 2000, Meijaard et al. 2005, Mohamed et al. 2009), Wilting et al. (2010) could not find any support that Flat-headed Cats can also live in oil palm plantations. According to their distribution model, over 70% of its predicted historical suitable habitat has been transformed to unsuitable habitats (Wilting et al. 2010).

Based on rates of habitat loss and the threatened status of many wetlands in its range, a continuing decline in the Flat-headed Cat population of at least 20% over the next 12 years (two generations) is likely. It is difficult to estimate population size given its patchy distribution and lack of any density estimates, but it is suspected that the effective population size could be fewer than 2,500 mature individuals, with no subpopulation having an effective population size larger than 250 (IUCN Cats Red List Workshop 2007).

History
  • 2008
    Endangered
  • 2008
    Endangered
    (IUCN 2008)
  • 2002
    Vulnerable
  • 1996
    Vulnerable
  • 1994
    Insufficiently Known
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Indeterminate
    (IUCN 1990)
  • 1988
    Indeterminate
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
  • 1986
    Indeterminate
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
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Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Endangered
Date Listed: 06/14/1976
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10) 
Where Listed: Entire


Population detail:

Population location: Entire
Listing status: E

For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Prionailurus planiceps, see its USFWS Species Profile

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Flat-headed cats are classified as "endangered" on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. Although little is known of this species, its patchy distribution appears to be closely tied to watercourses, and riparian habitats, which are often the first to come under human development or exploitation. They may be more adaptable than its morphological specializations would indicate, as suggested by reports of increased sightings near Malaysian oil palm plantations and in secondary lowland Sumatran forests; however, these claims have been disputed. A recent distribution model predicted that over 70% of its historically suitable habitat has been transformed to unsuitable habitat, likely due to anthropogenic influences.

CITES: appendix i

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered

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Status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).
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Population

Population

The Flat-headed Cat is closely associated with wetlands and lowland forests, habitats which are increasingly being occupied and modified by people (Wilting et al. 2010). It has never been studied, there are few records of the species, and it is generally considered rare, with a highly localized distribution around bodies of water (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Anon 1999, Bezuijen 2000, Sunquist and Sunquist 2002, Meijaard et al. 2005, Yasuda et al. 2007, Barita and Boeadi pers. comm. 2006, Mohamed et al. 2009). Although fishermen along the Merang river in south Sumatra (which has relatively intact peat forests) described it as common (Bezuijen 2000), they tend to use a single generic term for both flat-headed and leopard cats Prionailurus bengalensis, a more abundant species (Bezuijen 2003). Most of the recent records come from Sabah in north-eastern Borneo, where it can be frequently be observed along the Kinabatangan River (Wilting et al. 2010), and where it has been several times photographed by camera-traps in Deramakot Forest Reserve (Mohamed et al. 2009).


Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats

Wetland and lowland forest destruction and degradation is the primary threat faced by the species (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Wilting et al. 2010). Causes of this destruction include human settlement, forest transformation to plantations, draining for agriculture, pollution, and excessive hunting, wood-cutting and fishing. In addition, clearance of coastal mangroves over the past decade has been rapid in Tropical Asia. The depletion of fish stocks from over-fishing is prevalent in many Asian wetland environments and is likely to be a significant threat. Expansion of oil palm plantations is currently viewed as the most urgent threat (IUCN Cats Red List workshop assessment 2007). Trapping, snaring and poisoning are also threats: E. Bennett (in Sunquist and Sunquist 2002) reported that skins were frequently seen in longhouses in the interior of Sarawak, and Flat-headed Cats have been captured in traps set out to protect domestic fowl (Nowell and Jackson 1996).

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Although the exact status of this obscure, seldom-encountered cat is not fully understood, it may be especially vulnerable because of its apparent association with watercourses (4). Habitats along rivers are often the first to be exploited and encroached upon by humans as settlements and agriculture expand (5). Perhaps an even greater threat to the species is water pollution, particularly by oil, organochlorines and heavy metals associated with agricultural run-off and logging activities, contaminating the cat's prey (1).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions

Included on CITES Appendix I. The species is fully protected by national legislation over its range, with hunting and trade prohibited in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand (Nowell and Jackson 1996). It is known to occur in Berbak (Bezuijen 2000), Way Kambas (Anon 1996), Batang Gadis (Barita pers. comm.2006) and Kerinci Seblat National Parks (M. Linkie pers. comm. 2008) in Sumatra; the Danum Valley (Hearn et al. 2007), Tabin Wildlife Reserve (Yasuda et al. 2007), Kinabatangan Willdlife Sanctuary in Sabah (Lackman-Ancrenaz and Ancrenaz 1997), Deramakot Forest Reserve (Mohamed et al. 2009), Tangkulap Forest Reserve and Maliau Basi (Wilting et al. 2010); Bukit Sarang Conservation Area (Giman pers. comm. 2006) and Loagan Bunut National Park (Wilting et al. 2010) in Sarawak; Kutai and Kayan Mentarang National Parks (Wulfraat and Samso 2000), Bukit Suharto Protection Forest and Sabangau Peat Swamp Forest (Cheyne et al. 2009) in Kalimantan; Selangor and Pahang Peat Swamp Forest in Peninsula Malaysia (Wilting et al. 2010) and the Phru Tao Dang Peat Swamp Forest protected area in southernmost Thailand (Nowell and Jackson 1996). In Brunei it has been recorded from the TasekMerimbunHeritagePark (Yasuda et al. 2007). Conservation of this species depends on adequate habitat protection, and better understanding of its ecology and status in the remaining lowland and wetland forests. Therefore species specific field surveys focusing on these wetland and lowland areas are needed.

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Conservation

The flat-headed cat is fully protected across most of its range, with hunting and trade prohibited in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand, and hunting regulated in Singapore (1), although no legal protection is afforded in Brunei, Borneo (7). However, if the species is adaptable and can survive in palm-oil plantations as reports suggest, then it may be able to cope with considerable habitat disturbance and the future would not seem quite so bleak (2).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of flat-headed cats on humans. Animals have been captured in traps set out to protect poultry, and an individual was reported to have been shot while chasing chickens; however, fowl is not the preferred prey item of this species, and these observations are debated in the literature.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

TThere are no known positive effects of flat-headed cats on humans. Skins were frequently observed hanging in longhouses in Sarawak, Malaysia, but these are of doubtful economic importance.

Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material

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Wikipedia

Flat-headed cat

The flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) is a small wild cat patchily distributed in the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Borneo and Sumatra. Since 2008, it has been listed as endangered by the IUCN due to destruction of wetlands in their habitat. It is suspected that the effective population size could be fewer than 2,500 mature individuals, with no subpopulation having an effective population size larger than 250 adult individuals.[2]

Like some other small cats, it was originally placed in the genus Felis, but is now considered one of the five species in Prionailurus.[1][4]

Flat-headed cats are very rare in captivity, with less than 10 individuals, all kept in Malaysian and Thai zoos as recorded by ISIS.[5]

Characteristics[edit]

The flat-headed cat is distinguished at once by the extreme depression of the skull, which extends along the nose to the extremity of the muzzle, the sides of which are laterally distended. The general habit of body is slender, and the extremities are delicate and lengthened. The head itself is more lengthened and cylindrical than in the domestic cat. The distance between the eyes and the ears is comparatively great. The cylindrical form and lateral contraction of the head is contrasted by an unusual length of the teeth. The canine teeth are nearly as long as in an individual of double its size.[6]

The thick fur is reddish-brown on top of the head, dark roan brown on the body, and mottled white on the underbelly. The face is lighter in color than the body, and the muzzle and chin are white. Two prominent buff whitish streaks run on either side of the nose between the eyes. The ears are rounded. The eyes are unusually far forward and close together, compared with other cats, giving the felid improved stereoscopic vision. The teeth are adapted for gripping onto slippery prey, and the jaws are relatively powerful. These features help the flat-headed cat to catch and retain aquatic prey, to which it is at least as well adapted as the fishing cat. Legs are fairly short. Claws are retractable, but the covering sheaths are so reduced in size that about two-thirds of the claws are left protruding.[7]

The anterior upper premolars are larger and sharper relative to other cats. The inter-digital webs on its paws help the cat gain better traction in muddy environments and water, and are even more pronounced on this cat than those on the paws of the fishing cat.[8]

It has a head-and-body length of 41 to 50 cm (16 to 20 in) and a short tail of 13 to 15 cm (5.1 to 5.9 in).[4] It weighs 1.5 to 2.5 kg (3.3 to 5.5 lb).[9]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Flat-headed cat camera-trapped in Tangkulap Forest Reserve, Sabah, Malaysia in March 2009[3]

The distribution of flat-headed cats is restricted to lowland tropical rainforests in extreme southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei Darussalam, Kalimantan and Sumatra. They primarily occur in freshwater habitats near coastal and lowland areas. More than 70% of records were collected less than 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) away from water.[3]

Flat-headed cats occur in both primary and secondary forest.[10]

Ecology and behavior[edit]

Flat-headed cats are presumably solitary, and probably maintain their home ranges by scent marking. In captivity, both females and males spray urine by walking forward in a crouching position, leaving a trail on the ground.[11] Anecdotal historical accounts report that flat-headed cats are nocturnal, but an adult captive female was crepuscular and most active between 8:00 and 11:30 and between 18:00 and 22:00 hours.[7]

The stomach contents of an adult shot on a Malaysian riverbank consisted only of fish. They have been observed to wash objects, raccoon-style. Live fish are readily taken, with full submergence of the head, and the fish were usually carried at least two meters away, suggesting a feeding strategy to avoid letting aquatic prey escape back into water. Captive specimens show much greater interest in potential prey in the water than on dry land, suggesting a strong preference for riverine hunting in their natural habitat.[12] Their morphological specialization suggest that their diet is mostly composed of fish, but they are reported to hunt for frogs, and are thought to catch crustaceans.[7] They also catch rats and chicken.[8]

Vocalizations of a flat-headed cat kitten resembled those of a domestic cat. The vocal repertoire of adults has not been analyzed completely, but they purr and give other short-ranged vocalizations.[13]

Their gestation period lasts about 56 days. Of three litters recorded in captivity one consisted of two kittens, the other two were singletons. Two captive individuals have lived for fourteen years.[8][7]

Threats[edit]

Flat-headed cats are primarily threatened by wetland and lowland forest destruction and degradation.[8] Causes of this destruction include human settlement, forest transformation to plantations, draining for agriculture, pollution, and excessive hunting, wood-cutting and fishing. In addition, clearance of coastal mangroves over the past decade has been rapid in tropical Asia. The depletion of fish stocks from over-fishing is prevalent in many Asian wetland environments and is likely to be a significant threat. Expansion of oil palm plantations is currently viewed as the most urgent threat.[2]

They are also threatened by trapping, snaring and poisoning.[7] They have been captured in traps set out to protect domestic fowl.[8]

Conservation[edit]

The flat-headed cat is included on CITES Appendix I.[2] The felid is fully protected by national legislation over its range, with hunting and trade prohibited in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.[8]

Taxonomic history[edit]

The flat-headed cat was initially placed in the genus Felis by Vigors and Horsfield, who first described the felid in 1827 from Sumatra.[6] In 1951, Ellerman and Morrison-Scott grouped Felis planiceps with Felis viverrina, the fishing cat, as being distributed in Lower Siam, the Malay States, Sumatra and Borneo, and recorded from Patani.[14] In 1961, it was subordinated to the genus Prionailurus by the German biologist Weigel who compared fur pattern of wild and domestic felids.[15] In 1997, researchers from the National Cancer Institute confirmed this taxonomic ranking following their phylogenetic studies.[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 543. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ a b c d Wilting, A., Hearn, A., Sanderson, J., Ross, J. and Sunarto, S. (2010). "Prionailurus planiceps". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 
  3. ^ a b c Wilting, A., Cord, A., Hearn, A. J., Hesse, D., Mohamed A., Traeholdt, C., Cheyne, S. M., Sunarto, S., Jayasilan, M., Ross, J., Shapiro, A. C., Sebastian, A., Dech, S., Breitenmoser, C., Sanderson, J., Duckworth, J. W., Hofer, H. (2010). "Modelling the Species Distribution of Flat-Headed Cats (Prionailurus planiceps), an Endangered South-East Asian Small Felid". PLoS ONE 5 (3): e9612. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009612. PMC 2840020. PMID 20305809. 
  4. ^ a b Nowak, R. (editor) 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. 6th edition. ISBN 0-8018-5789-9
  5. ^ International Species Information System (2011) Captive Prionailurus planiceps. Accessed 13 October 2011
  6. ^ a b Vigors, N. A., Horsfield, T. (1827) Description of two Species of the genus Felis, in the collection of the Zoological Society. The Zoological Journal Vol. III: 449–450.
  7. ^ a b c d e Sunquist, M., Sunquist, F. (2002). Wild Cats of the World. The University of Chicago Press. pp. 233–236. ISBN 0-226-77999-8. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Nowell, K., Jackson, P. (1996) Flat-headed Cat. Prionailurus planiceps. In: Wild Cats: status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland.
  9. ^ Francis, C. (2001) A Photographic Guide to Mammals of South-east Asia including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Java, Sumatra, Bali and Borneo. ISBN 1859745075
  10. ^ Payne, J., Françis, C. M., Phillipps, K. (1998) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo. Sabah Society. 3rd reprint, ISBN 967-99947-1-6
  11. ^ Leyhausen, P. (1979) Cat behaviour. The predatory and social behaviour of domestic and wild cats. Garland STPM Press; New York ISBN 0-8240-7017-8.
  12. ^ Muul, I., Lim, B. L. (1970). "Ecological and morphological observations of Felis planiceps". Journal of Mammalogy 51 (4): 806–808. doi:10.2307/1378310. JSTOR 1378310. 
  13. ^ Peters, G. (1981) Das Schnurren der Katzen. Säugetierkundliche Mitteilungen 29: 30–37.
  14. ^ Ellerman, J. R., Morrison-Scott, T. C. S. (1966) Checklist of Palaearctic and Indian mammals 1758 to 1946. Second edition. British Museum of Natural History, London, p. 314.
  15. ^ Weigel, I. (1961) Das Fellmuster der wildlebenden Katzenarten und der Hauskatze in Vergleichender und Stammesgeschicher Hinsicht. Säugetierkundliche Mitteilungen 9: 1–120.
  16. ^ Johnson, Warren E.; o’Brien, Stephen J. (1997). "Phylogenetic reconstruction of the felidae using 16S rRNA and NADH-5 mitochondrial genes". Journal of Molecular Evolution 44: S98–116. doi:10.1007/PL00000060. PMID 9071018. 
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