July 16th, 2013 by Jake Richardson
Scientists have documented for the first time that a wild cat deliberately imitated the cries of a monkey in order to draw it closer for an attack. Marguays are medim-sized wild cats and obviously hunt for small animals to eat. Researchers were able to observe a margay making noises similar to that of a baby tamarin monkey in order to trick adult tamarins to come close enough the margay would have a better chance of catching one. It was actually four adult tamarins that came down out of a tree in response to the fake baby tamarin cries.
Behind some foliage was the margay.
‘This observation further proves the reliability of information obtained from Amazonian inhabitants. 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. (Source: Science Daily)
Previously, the researchers had heard of stories told by Amazon inhabitants about puma and other wild cats that were engaging in vocal imitations to attract prey. While these stories may have been true, anecdotes are not accepted as scientific confirmation. They can help point scientists in the right direction in some cases, but they can also be very misleading. Eye witness accounts can be very unreliable as we have seen in some situations where people report seeing a mountain lion, but later it was determined to be a dog.
Pied tamarins are Endangered, but not by imitative cats. The main cause of their demise is habitat loss from deforestation in the Amazon. Margays are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List. Thousands of these beautiful animals are killed each year for their fur.
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