I can haz one of these, plz?

December 28, 2012 • 1:51 pm

Your host is catless and will have a birthday in two days.  An appropriate gift for the last day of Koynezaa is what I consider the world’s most beautiful felid. Here’s its larval stage: a living hairball.

Otocolobus manul
Otocolobus manul

It’s a Pallas’s cat (or kitten), also known as the manul. At least I’m pretty sure it is based on the small ears, eye stripes, and long fur. See moar of them here.

UPDATE: Reader six45ive noted this video in the comments, but I’ll paste the whole thing in here. It shows 7-week-old Pallas kittens:

27 thoughts on “I can haz one of these, plz?

      1. Yes, thank you! Fascinating face on these cats. Never heard of them before you, despite being a lifelong cat person. Are you asking only for pictures or for a real, flesh and blood one for Coynezaa?

        1. They are my favorite wild cat, and there are reports of some that have been tamed! But no, I don’t want a manul for my birthday; they should stay in the wild. Indeed, I can’t take on any cat, as I travel too much. 🙁

          1. If ever you travel to San Antonio, you’re welcome to meet all ten of mine. You can meet the permanent-foster lizard, too. He thinks he’s another cat. We’re a household of rescues: We rescued each other.

  1. This looks like a creature from some fantasy film. Are you sure they’re not just sneaky dwarves in costumes?

    1. I’m amazed how much it looks like a cross between my tabby Maine Coon and the actual raccons who come to share food, here. The ear spacing and fluff are raccon-like, the striped tail is fairly shared, but the pictures I found, online, show a forehead and top of head full of evenly spaced black dots. Those are unique.

      1. I’m readin the Wiki page on it. It says

        “The winter coat is greyer and less patterned than the summer coat.”

        I’ve heard a few rumours of Siamese cats turning dark brown in colder temperatures. Is this true, do you know how this happens?

        1. No idea, though I have heard it, too, long ago. Maybe someone else knows? My only Siamese are current, mixed breeds, and already fully black, so it’s hard for them to get darker.

        2. Yes, it’s well known that the color of Siamese cats is temperature-sensitive, turning dark when it’s colder. That is in fact why the coldest parts of the body, the ears, tail, and feet, are dark. You can shave your initials in the fur on its side and let the fur grow back in a colder room, and you’ll get dark initials (don’t try this at home, but I’ve posted on this topic before). See my earlier post on the temperature-sensitivity here, complete with the dark initial.

          If you read the site daily, you will learn ALL!

        3. My understanding is that the “points” on Siamese cats are due to the protein responsible for the dark coloration is heat sensitive. So darker colors appear at extremities: ears, muzzle, paws, and tail. So it makes sense that a colder climate would lead to darker coat color.

  2. My wife said “They’re cute but all I see is a lot of shedding.” This might be my in-road to an Abyssinian…

  3. At first glance I read that as OCTOPUS MAUL… which has all kinds of possibilities and would indeed make a good name for a rock band.

  4. Ah, I had forgotten about those! But I found the article I once discovered them in, which mentions it is believed to look like early cats. (Perhaps explaining why their pupils are round instead of slits.) http://www.arkinspace.com/2011/04/manul-cat-that-time-forgot.html

    “Have you ever wanted to take a trip through time to see what animals looked like millions of years ago? When it comes to cats there is little or no need. This beautiful specimen is a Manul, otherwise known as Pallas’s Cat. About twelve million years ago it was one of the first two modern cats to evolve and it hasn’t changed since. The other species, Martelli’s Cat, is extinct so what you are looking at here is a unique window in to the past of modern cats.”

    1. The most recent (extant) felid phylogeny reference I have handy is based on a reasonably large dataset of nuclear DNA (Johnson et al. 2006, doi: 10.1126/science.1122277) and it contradicts the claim about the 12 million-year age of the Manul lineage. The claim that the species is ‘unchanged’ over that period I will charitably ignore (let’s just say, I don’t think any of the photos are that old).

      Here’s part of the abstract:

      Modern felid species descend from relatively recent ([less than]11 million years ago) divergence and speciation events that produced successful predatory carnivores worldwide but that have confounded taxonomic classifications. A highly resolved molecular phylogeny with divergence dates for all living cat species, derived from autosomal, X-linked, Y-linked, and mitochondrial gene segments (22,789 base pairs) and 16 fossil calibrations define eight principal lineages produced
      through at least 10 intercontinental migrations facilitated by sea-level fluctuations. A ghost lineage analysis indicates that available felid fossils underestimate (i.e., unrepresented basal branch length) first occurrence by an average of 76%, revealing a low representation of felid lineages in paleontological remains.

      Anyway, the molecular phylogeny puts Otocolobus as the sister group to Prionailurus, together comprising the ‘Leopard Cat Lineage’ as the immediate sister group to Felis in the strict sense, the ‘Domestic Cat Lineage’.

      Successively more basal within Felidae (less closely related to Felis) are Puma + Acinonyx (Puma/Cheetah), Lynx (Lynxes/Bobcat), Leopardus (Ocelot and friends), Caracal (incl. Serval), Pardofelis (Bay Cat Lineage, Asian), and the most basal clade of all comprising Neofelis (Clouded Leopard) and Panthera (‘Great Roaring Cats’).

      While it’s true that so-called “Science” is constantly changing its mind, I don’t expect those estimates to have changed very much in the last six years (and it would probably take a lot more DNA evidence or some very good, probably older fossils to make more than a negligible adjustment).

      Reconstructing the ancestral morphology, habitat, appearance and behaviour of populations along the ancestral stem lineage requires integration of different kinds of evidence with parsimony, empirical generalizations or ‘evolutionary laws’, and inevitable speculation. On a brief inspection of the tree (i.e. without doing any of that sciencey stuff in a repeatable form), I guess that the short legs, shaggy fur, small rounded ears, and raccoon-like mask of the Manul are phylogenetically uninformative autapomorphies, not present in the common ancestor with any other genus.

      So cats probably don’t come from monkeys after all.

      1. “So cats probably don’t come from monkeys, after all.”

        And yet, when I saw those photos on the other site, they looked so simian! I had to wonder if anyone else noticed.

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