Felines are known to be extremely intelligent animals and use mainly camouflage to surprise and capture their prey. According to a new study, one species of wild cats goes ever further, by disguising its voice into imitating the calls of its victims.
Scientists observed a new behavior in Margay cats as they recorded the imitating the calls of squirrel-sized monkeys called pied tamarins. It is the first time that a specie of wild cats copies the cry of its prey.
The first recording of this phenomenon was in 2005, as researchers studied a group of pied tamarins feeding in a ficus tree. They saw a margay near by, making sounds similar to tamarin babies. This succeeded in drawing the tamarin “sentinel”'s attention and making it climb down from the tree to investigate. Four other tamarins joined it in finding out where did these familiar cries came from.
The margay's attack was unsuccessful in the end as the “sentinel” realized the trick and warned his siblings in time. But the astonishing thing was that because of this almost perfect imitation, the tamarins chose to investigate rather than run.
“This observation further proves the reliability of information obtained from Amazonian inhabitants,” said the director of the WCS's Latin America Program, Avecita Chicchón. “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.”.
“Cats are known for their physical agility, but this vocal manipulation of prey species indicates a psychological cunning which merits further study,” added study researcher Fabio Rohe, of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
This study was accomplished in the Amazonian forests of the Reserva Florestal Adolpho Ducke in Brazil and the results appear in the June issue of the journal Neotropical Primates.