Scientists uncover the key to fishing cats’ looking success

Scientists uncover the key to fishing cats’ looking success
Scientists uncover the key to fishing cats’ looking success


When the famously enigmatic fishing cat hunts in deep water, it retains calm and stays nonetheless. A minimum of, more often than not.  

Asia’s Prionailurus viverrinus prowls swamps and marshes at night time, trying to find fish that might make for a nutritious meal. Relying on how deep the water is, the wild feline switches its hunting strategy to maximise its vitality acquire, scientists report December 24 in Mammalia.

The report affords “the first detailed look at how the fishing cat hunts,” says coauthor Tiasa Adhya, a Kolkata-based biologist. One of many foremost specialists on the species, Adhya in 2010 cofounded The Fishing Cat Project — the longest-running fishing cat analysis and conservation undertaking on this planet.

Simply over a decade in the past, the fishing cat was among the many least-studied wild felines on this planet. To boost consciousness amongst native communities and collect knowledge on the medium-sized cat, the undertaking launched the Know Thy Neighbor initiative in 2016. Greater than 20 folks dwelling close to three prime fishing cat habitats on India’s east coast — together with Chilika, the most important brackish water lagoon in Asia — had been skilled to put in digicam traps of their respective neighborhoods.

image of Tiasa Adhya wearing ball cap and sunglasses with marsh in the background
Tiasa Adhya works at Chilika, a lagoon that could be a prime fishing cat habitat situated on the east coast of India.Partha Dey

One of many volunteers, Subas Behera, is a fisherman who lives close to Chilika in Bhusandapur village. Every night, Behera would place a digicam lure at a predetermined location and take away it the following morning to keep away from theft or injury. He has, with nice affection, named the feminine fishing cat recorded by his digicam lure ‘Choti,’ which means small, after her one brief, again leg.

“A fishing cat thinks just like a fisherman,” Behera says. “We’re both constantly thinking about where the fish are.”

Divyajyoti Ganguly, a wildlife biology grasp’s scholar on the Nationwide Centre for Organic Sciences in Bangalore and coauthor of the research, analyzed 197 movies collected by the digicam traps from 2016 to 2018.

In deep water — the place a lot of the cats’ our bodies are submerged — the felines have a tendency to attend patiently for the right alternative to strike. They stayed nonetheless almost 52 % of the time and jumped after prey simply 3.9 % of the time, the movies confirmed.

This ‘sit and wait’ strategy helps fishing cats preserve vitality whereas additionally rising the probabilities of efficiently ambushing prey. The fishing cat “thinks hard before jumping in,” Adhya says. “It has to optimize its [energy] gain.”

When looking in shallow water, fishing cats had been extra energetic, patrolling about 96 % of the time and infrequently pawing the water to flush out fish, Ganguly and Adhya discovered.

The perception “expands and elaborates on our understanding of the fishing cat’s semiaquatic nature,” says wildlife ecologist Jim Sanderson, founder and director of the Small Wild Cat Conservation Basis in Corrales, N.M., who was not concerned within the research.

Jaguars in Brazil have been spotted fishing (SN: 10/13/21). However fishing cats have precise bodily variations to a semiaquatic life-style. Their partially retractable claws let the felines hook and maintain fish, whereas their double-layered coats assist them keep dry, earlier work has proven. The fishing cat is certainly one of solely two wild cats on this planet with variations to be semiaquatic, the opposite being the flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) of southeast Asia.

Nonetheless, there’s extra to study fishing cats, together with simply what number of there are on this planet. Up to now, there have been no nationwide counts in any of the ten nations through which the feline is thought to exist. The cats do face rising threats from habitat loss and degradation, in addition to human-animal battle, main the Worldwide Union for the Conservation of Nature to categorise the species as weak.

“Living off fish inevitably brings fishing cats into conflict with people doing the same thing,” Sanderson says. “That’s why fishing cat conservation means working with the local people.”

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