Does any felid have aposematic colouration on the face?

Everyone knows that aposematic colouration - such as the bold black-and-white of skunks (Mephitidae, e.g. - is designed to warn enemies off. And everyone is familiar with many examples from wasps ( to the blue-ringed octopus (

However, it is easy to overlook a certain principle: that emphasising the hazard is necessary mainly because the defensive capabilities of the animals involved are not obvious from anatomy or behaviour.

In other words, the idea behind aposematic colouration is not merely 'Beware!', it is 'I am much more dangerous than I look'.

That skunks could possibly smell so bad is not obvious to the uninitiated; the sting of wasps is hardly a visible feature of their anatomy; and the venom of the blue-ringed octopus is neither self-evident nor predictable based on previous experience with other octopuses. Hence it pays these animals to advertise, not just with threatening postures but also with colouration so bold that it gives pause to antagonists to consider 'What does this creature know that I do not?'

Our scientific descriptors should reflect this distinction: between colouration that emphasises obvious weaponry and colouration that hints at hidden weaponry. And the term 'aposematic' basically refers to the latter, not so?

Keeping all of this in mind, what should we call the bold colouration on the faces of the puma (Puma concolor, and the caracal (Caracal caracal, Several genera of felids have fang-baring expressions, but these species are odd.

Their facial fur has a permanent pattern of dark-and-pale which becomes 'warpaint' when the face is contorted in threat. The following show the puma: and and and The following show the caracal: and and

It is true that felids do possess 'hidden weapons' in the sense of their retractile claws, which in most species are actually more dangerous - particularly to the eyes - than the canine teeth. And so, when a cat fang-bares, there is a case to be made that what is being hinted at is the scratch rather than the bite.

However, neither the puma nor the caracal has weaponry beyond that of other felids. Furthermore, the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis, and is reluctant to use a fang-baring expression, despite having disproportionately large feet (see and and, presumably, claws. So why the specific emphasis, and do the facial colourations of puma and caracal qualify as 'aposematic'?

One possible explanation is that these two species, for ecological and biogeographical reasons, were not encountered frequently enough for their enemies to become familiar with them. The puma overlapped in habitat with the wolf and the brown bear, but the felid avoided contact by being nocturnal and hiding in trees and rocky outcrops. The caracal coexists with a diverse fauna of carnivores larger than itself, but is perhaps the most secretive felid in most of its habitat. According to this rationale the main value of their fang-baring displays may be to startle and confuse naive antagonists, stalling any attack. And if so, it might be appropriate to call their facial colourations 'flags'. But would it contort the adjective 'aposematic' to apply it here?

Αναρτήθηκε από milewski milewski, Ιούλιος 25, 2021 1041 ΜΜ


The caracal is lynx-like in several ways, but it is far readier to fang-bare (e.g. see than any of the four species of Lynx (e.g. see Lynx lynx in The bobcat (Lynx rufus) does reluctantly and briefly fang-bare ( The Canada lynx does briefly fang-bare intraspecifically in extreme fear (, but I have yet to see it bare its upper canines towards a photographer when cornered.


Αναρτήθηκε από milewski 2 μήνες πριν (Αναφορά)

The large number of good photos of fang-baring by the puma shows the readiness of this species to display in this way, in contrast to the Canada lynx. The following is just one of dozens I could have linked here:

Αναρτήθηκε από milewski περίπου 2 μήνες πριν (Αναφορά)
Αναρτήθηκε από milewski περίπου 2 μήνες πριν (Αναφορά)

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