Wildcats mimic their prey’s calls to hunt them

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 - 16:16

Washington: For the first time, researchers found a wildcat species imitating the call of its intended victim in order to hunt it.

"Cats are known for their physical agility, but this vocal manipulation of prey species indicates a psychological cunning which merits further study," said WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) researcher Fabio Rohe.

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.

When a tamarin "sentinel” climbed down to investigate the sounds, a few more followed, clearly confounded by these familiar vocalizations, choosing to investigate rather than run.

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.
"This means that accounts of jaguars and pumas using the same vocal mimicry to attract prey--but not yet recorded by scientists--also deserve investigation," said Dr. Avecita Chicchón, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society``s Latin America Program.

The observations appear in the June issue of Neotropical Primates.


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First Published: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 - 16:16

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