Friday, 9 July 2010

Cats mimic the sound of their prey

There's a really interesting piece of news published today on Biology News. Apparently, the indigenous Indian population in the Amazonian forests of Brazil have been reporting for years that some of the wild cats, pumas, jaguars, etc, use a vocalisation of a target prey species to lure the prey within reach. Naturally, the scientists dismissed this as fantasy. No longer.

Researchers first recorded the incident in 2005 when a group of eight pied tamarins were feeding in a ficus tree. They then observed a margay emitting calls similar to those made by tamarin babies. This attracted the attention of a tamarin "sentinel," which climbed down from the tree to investigate the sounds coming from a tangle of vines called lianas. While the sentinel monkey started vocalizing to warn the rest of the group of the strange calls, the monkeys were clearly confounded by these familiar vocalizations, choosing to investigate rather than flee. Four other tamarins climbed down to assess the nature of the calls. At that moment, a margay emerged from the foliage walking down the trunk of a tree in a squirrel-like fashion, jumping down and then moving towards the monkeys. Realizing the ruse, the sentinel screamed an alarm and sent the other tamarins fleeing.

So not only will the scientists have to study this newly-observed phenomenon, but they'll also have to start taking what the indigenous natives tell them about the wildlife a little more seriously.

You do have to wonder about the arrogance of western man sometimes, don't you?

The monkey is a pied tamarind and the I-want-one-of-those! pussycat is a margay.

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