LYNX : Medium-sized wildcats

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Eurasian Lynx

lynx (plural lynx or lynxes) is a genus which includes four species of medium-sized wildcats namely, Eurasian lynx, Canada lynx, Iberian or Spanish lynx and Bobcat. The smallest species are the bobcats and the Canada lynx, while Eurasian lynxes are the largest, with considerable variations within species.

The inhabit forests at higher altitude with dense cover of tall grass, shrubs and reeds. Although they hunt on the ground, they are also expert tree climbers and can swim swiftly while catching fish.

Bobcat and Canada lynx are the two species of Lynx that are found in the temperate zone of North America. While the Canada lynx is present mainly in boreal forests of Canada and Alaska, Bobcat is found throughout southern Canada, the continental United States and northern Mexico.

Iberian lynx also known as Spanish lynx, a critically endangered species, is found in southern Spain and formerly in eastern Portugal. There is an Iberian lynx reproduction center outside Silves in the Algarve in southern Portugal. The range of Eurasian lynx is quite extensive. It is found from central and northern Europe across Asia up to Northern Pakistan and India.

The term “lynx” came into Middle English via Latin from the Greek derived from the Indo-European root “leuk-“, meaning “light, brightness”, in reference to the luminescence of its reflective eyes.

It is worth mentioning here that neither the caracal, sometimes called the Persian lynx, desert lynx or African lynx, nor the jungle cat, also called the swamp lynx, is a member of the Lynx genus.

Characteristics

Body colour in these cats varies from medium brown to goldish to beige-white, and is infrequently marked with dark brown spots, particularly on the limbs. All species have white fur on their bellies, chests and the insides of their legs. Since lynx species are found on a vast geographical area their fur colour and its length and paw size vary by its climate range. For instance in the Southwestern U.S., cat’s short-haired fur is dark and the paws are smaller and less padded. As the animal ranges to colder northern climates, fur gets more and more thicker to provide protection from cold, its colour gets lighter for the purpose of camouflage, and paws enlarge and become more padded for snowy environments. In northern latitudes lynx paws may become even larger than a human hand or foot.

All lynxes have a characteristic short tail and tufts of black hair on the tips of their ears; large, padded paws for walking on snow; and long whiskers on the face. Under their neck, lynxes have a ruff which has black bars, that are not very visible, and resemble more to a bow tie.

Origin and species of Lynx

Lynxes are believed to have evolved from the “Issoire lynx” or Lynx issiodorensis, a species of lynx that inhabited Europe during Pleistocene and may have originated in Africa during the late Pliocene. It became extinct probably during the end of the last glacial period.

It is commonly considered as the ancestor of all four lynx species alive today. Its skeleton resembles modern lynxes, but it had shorter and more robust limbs, with a larger head and longer neck. As a result, Lynx issiodorensis more closely resembled a typical member of the cat family than do its extant descendants.

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Eurasian lynx

Lynx range map (Yellow - Eurasian Lynx, Blue - Canada Lynx, Red - Iberian Lynx and Green - Bobcat) (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Of the four species, Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx) is the largest in size and is the third largest predator in Europe after brown bear and grey wolf. Lynx lynx is one of the widest-ranging, and is found in forests of Europe, Russia, and Central Asia. Its populations have been reduced or extirpated from Europe, where it is now being reintroduced. A strict carnivore, it consumes about one-two kilos of meat daily.

Canada lynx

A North American felid, Canadian lynx (Lynx canadensis) or Canada lynx ranges in forests and tundra regions across Canada and into Alaska, as well as some parts of the northern parts of U.S. like most cats Lynx canadensis is also a good climber and swimmer; it constructs rough shelters under fallen trees or rock ledges. It has a thick coat and broad paws, and is twice as effective as bobcats at supporting its weight on the snow.

Iberian or Spanish Lynx

A critically endangered species (facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild), Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), also called Spanish lynx, is native to Iberian Peninsula in Southern Europe. It is the most endangered cat species in the world. According to the conservation group SOS Lynx, if this species dies out, it will be the first feline extinction since the Smilodon 10,000 years ago.

Bobcat

A North American feline, bobcat (Lynx rufus) is common throughout the southern Canada, the continental United States, and northern Mexico. It resembles other species of the Lynx, but is on average the smallest of the four. Unlike its other three cousins bobcat does not depend wholly on the deep forests, and ranges from desert lands to swamps to mountainous and agricultural areas. Its population depends primarily on the population of its prey. Nonetheless, it is often killed by larger predators such as coyotes.

Behaviour

Lynxes usually lead a solitary life, although small groups have also been observed hunting together occasionally. Lynx mate in late winter and two to four kittens are born once a year. The young stay with their mother for one more winter, a total of around nine months, before moving out to live on their own. These cats create dens in crevices or under ledges.

Protection

The hunting of this feline is prohited by law in many countries. Lynx trade is ruled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Some of them are listed in Appendix I (every kind of trade is forbidden) since 1990, others in Appendix II since 1977.

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