So there you are, taking your family for a stroll through a peaceful Latin American forest park somewhere between the Rio Grande and northern Argentina.
The leaves overhead rustle, and you catch a glimpse of an arboreal wild cat — smaller and more agile than a jaguar (whew!) but just as spotted. Its tail lashing in anger, the cat glares at you with big brownish-red eyes for a moment and then disappears into the canopy before you can get a good look.
“What was it?” The kids are real excited.
Luckily, you have this artist with you (or the video on your phone) to get them started on figuring it out:
Here’s more information on ocelots from the Cat Specialist Group and ISEC.
Did you know there’s an ocelot effect?
Margays and other small spotted cats seem to avoid areas occupied by ocelots. No one really knows why — sure, the ocelot is a little bigger than them, but it’s still a small cat. And there’s no documented “jaguar” or “puma effect.”
While the conservationists work on that question, here are the Cat Specialist Group and ISEC pages for the margay.
So — what was that cat in the tree?
Asia’s clouded leopard — more closely related to lions and tigers than to margays — is the only other cat that can rotate its hind paws 180° like that!
Featured image: Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock