The forearm flag of felids as a retrievable ancestral feature depending on the local predatory regime

@paradoxornithidae @beartracker

In a previous Post (, I showed that the bobcat (Lynx rufus) and the serval (Leptailurus serval) possess forearm flags, which ostensibly function as warning colouration nested within the overall camouflage colouration.

A trace of the forearm flag is visible in many other genera and species of felids.

It thus seems to be an ancestral feature, which can remain latent. When a population finds itself, through the contingencies of biogeography, in a predatory regime intense enough for the warning insignia to be genetically 'switched on' again, a resumption of the dark/pale contrast relative to the overall colouration needs little more than increased pigmentation/depigmentation.

The genus Felis is like the genus Lynx in showing this latency. Felis contains various populations, ranging from subspecies to species, in which the forearm flag has been reinstated in at least a proportion of individuals.

A prime example is one subspecies of the African wild cat (Felis lybica), the species from which the domestic cat (Felis catus, see and has been derived.

The inner foreleg is barred in several domestic breeds and in all wild subspecies, but is usually not noticeable relative to the overall colouration.

It is only in Felis lybica griselda, the wild cat of the Kalahari (Botswana and Namibia), that the forearm flag is expressed in virtually all individuals. This is possibly because the predatory regime relative to the available resources is particularly intense there (e.g. see

Here is the forearm flag in action:

It so happens that Felis lybica griselda is the best-illustrated of all the subspecies of this species. The following show the forearm flag clearly: and and and and and and and and and and and

Turning now to other species of Felis, the same theme of latency and ambivalence is apparent.

In the European wild cat (Felis silvestris) only a few individuals qualify for a forearm flag:

The jungle cat (Felis chaus) seems to be at an evolutionary threshold between a conspicuous pattern and an inconspicuous one, or vice versa; and it also shows wide individual and possibly regional variation.

Although the species fails to qualify for a forearm flag, it illustrates the latency in the pattern. The range in expression is between and

In Felis margarita, an unknown percentage of individuals qualify for a forearm flag: and

Let us now turn to other genera of felids, with an eye to the same incipient/residual pattern on the inner foreleg.

In Puma concolor, the incipient/residual pattern is restricted to juveniles; there is no forearm flag despite the development of warning colouration on the face: and and

Some individuals of Lynx canadensis, L. lynx and L. pardinus show the incipient/residual pattern in adults: and and and and and and and and and However, I have yet to see any individual of these three species in which the forearm flag is expressed on a par with 80% of individuals in Lynx rufus.

In the caracal (Caracal caracal), the incipient/residual pattern is visible in only a few individuals: and

The closely related African golden cat (Caracal aurata) is particularly variable in colouration but the pattern is never bolder than in

Finally for now, the following are worth examining:
Prionailurus planiceps
Prionailurus bengalensis
and Leopardus geoffroyi and

Also see

Publicado el agosto 9, 2021 06:02 MAÑANA por milewski milewski


each post reads like an article in the Nature journal.

Publicado por bobasil hace casi 3 años

Thanks so much for all your very interesting journal articles. they are highly appreciated though it will take a long time to digest them all.

Publicado por botswanabugs hace casi 3 años

@botswanabugs I'm so glad that you enjoy this kind of discussion. And thanks to you too for posting your well-taken photos...

Publicado por milewski hace casi 3 años

Here are more photos of Felis chaus: and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and

Publicado por milewski hace casi 3 años
Publicado por milewski hace casi 3 años

The first in the following series of three is an excellent photo of Panthera tigris:

It shows, inter alia, the following:

The striping on the tiger, so effective as disruptive colouration (camouflage), is far from uniformly applied to the whole figure.

Note how intense the striping is on the hindquarters and tail, compared to the forequarters with their sparse striping.

Note the lack of any caudal flag, in contrast to e.g. Panthera pardus.

Note the horizontal pattern on the legs, particularly the posterior aspect of the forelegs.

Publicado por milewski hace más de 2 años

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