Friday mystery object #220 answer

Last week I gave you this lovely skull to identify:


As I suspected, everyone immediately recognised it as a type of cat. The characteristic two large blade-like premolars with a gap (diastema) behind the long canines and the straight incisor row were a dead give-away.

Then came the difficult bit. There are around 40 living cat species recognised in the world and because they didn’t diverge from a common ancestor until just 10 million years ago (or thereabouts), they all tend to look quite similar.

There were lots of suggestions, ranging from Lynx to Jungle Cat, but only Jake managed to recognise this short and highly domed skull (with impressively long canines) as belonging to a Marbled Cat Pardofelis marmorata (Martin, 1836).

The Marbled Cat is an tree-dwelling species from South and Southeast Asia that isn’t really very well known. They have a ridiculously long and chunky tail to help with their arboreal lifestyle and beautiful patterns on their coat, which gives them their name.

Photo of a Marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata) spotted in Danum Valley Conservation Area, Borneo, by Johan Embréus 2009

Since cats are so hard to tell apart do you think I should post a few more over the next few weeks? Between us we may be able to spot some useful distinguishing features…

17 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #220 answer

  1. Nice work Jake! And great to hear there are more cats coming up!
    Before they do, can I just ask if I am right in thinking this animal is missing its P2s? I believe is the maxillary formula for felids, so I’d have expected a small premolar in the gap after the canines, but there’s nothing obvious like empty sockets to suggest anything’s missing. Is that just normal variation, or is it unusual? Or am I just missing something?!

  2. I’d really like an extended series of cats to demonstrate the key aids to identification between similar species. In fact, I wouldn’t mind that becoming a recurring feature, though with more groups than just cats.

  3. I am looking forward to “Elements of felinology” and have a question: the foramen infraorbitalis is very large in cats — compared to humans, at least. Does it reflect innervation of the whiskers?

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