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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Seeing Spots? Must Be a Forest Cat
19 October 2010 7:03 pm
It seems obvious: Stripes conceal a tiger in the tall grass, whereas spots help a jaguar remain hidden in its shadowy rainforest home. But is this true? Using Internet image searches and wildlife photo archives, researchers classified 35 species of cats according to their markings, including the size, shape, and direction of the pattern. Then the researchers compared those characteristics with factors such as habitat, prey size, and hunting time. As the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, in virtually every case, the cat's markings provided camouflage specific to its habitat, suggesting that it quickly evolved those markings to fill an ecological niche. Though the researchers found a few exceptions, spotted cats frequent forests, while unmarked lions range out in the open, and the most irregularly marked species, such as the clouded leopard, tend to live in trees and hunt at night. And the tiger? Those magnificent stripes do conceal the great cat in its jungle habitat, but the pattern is so unique that its origins remain a mystery.
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*This article has been corrected. It originally connected a tiger's stripes with its habitat, but the researchers did not make that conclusion.