International Society For Endangered Cats

A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World

Vocal Mimicry of the Margay

The Margay (Leopardus weidii) is a neotropical wild cat whose habitat extends from Mexico to Argentina.  This predator has several unique characteristics, such as a tail that is as long as 70% of the length of its body, a feature that is indicative of its arboreal lifestyle.   The Margay also has flexible ankles that allow it to rotate its feet 180 degrees so it can slowly travel head first down trees and hang from tree limbs by one hind foot!  While these traits are impressive, the Margay’s true strength as a predator may lie in its vocal repertoire.

The BioOne Online Journal posted an informative piece on the margay’s hunting strategy to attract the wild pied tamarin (Saguinus bicolor).  Margays mimic the sound of the wild pied tamarin’s young, causing confusion and drawing their prey into an easier position to initiate an attack.  This highly evolved predatory behavior is extremely effective and sounds like something from a science fiction story.

And it’s not just wild cats that mimic sounds. In fact, the domesticated cat, that most of you share your home with, is able to affect its owners behavior by mimicking the sound of a baby crying and playing off human’s innate tendencies to appease crying young.

Both the margay and the domestic cat share a behavior driven by an attempt to control their food source and in the case of the house cat, that just may be you.

To learn more about the margay, visit our Margay section.

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