Recognition of Coat Pattern Variation and Broken Tail Phenomenon in the Asiatic Golden Cat (Catopuma temminckii)

Animals (Basel). 2022 May 31;12(11):1420. doi: 10.3390/ani12111420.


The Asian golden cat (Catopuma temminckii) is the most varied wild cat species in terms of coat color. Understanding coat pattern variation will help to elucidate the mechanisms behind it as well as its relationship with the environment. We conducted long-term (2013-2021) monitoring of Asian golden cats in the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon National Nature Reserve, Tibet, using camera traps at 283 points over 89,991 camera days. A total of 620 cat photos were recorded, including 344 (55.48%) with recognizable color patterns. Vector graphics of the coat patterns were extracted from the field image data, which revealed 10 color types in the ratio common: cinnamon: reddish-brown long hair: ocelot: blackening: melanistic: gray: brown: brown short hair: pure black = 123:76:57:35:22:8:7:7:5:4. The genes for coat pattern variation are widespread in the Asian golden cat population and are relatively stable. The increase in population size intraspecific competition has led to the tail break phenotype in individual cats. The gene encoding for tail breakage in Asian golden cats remains unknown. This study provides basic information for understanding faunal diversity in the Eastern Himalayan biodiversity hotspot and serves as a reference for studies on the formation mechanisms for feline color pattern diversity.

Keywords: Asiatic golden cat (Catopuma temminckii); Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon National Nature Reserve; broken tail phenomenon; camera trap; coat morph; recessive gene.

Grants and funding

This research was funded by the Research on Classification of Terrestrial Wildlife Conservation and Management, grant number 2021Q00360; Project of Rare and Endangered Species Investigation, Supervision, and Industrial norms of the State Forestry and Grassland and Administration, grant number 2130212021-4023; and the Second Terrestrial Wildlife Resource Survey Project of Tibet Autonomous Region.