A video of about 30 seconds about 50 meters from the animal has become the first evidence of the presence of a Canadian black lynx ( Lynx canadensis ). This is the first documented sighting of a black lynx. It happened in August 2020, when wildlife biologist and University of Alberta professor Thomas Jung stumbled upon this very particular lynx near the town of Whitehorse in Yukon, Canada.
Several experts have studied the images and have confirmed that it is a Canadian lynx instead of a bobcat (Lynx rufus); however, due to the poor quality of the video images, only minor details can be seen. “ It had black fur that contained whitish gray hairs throughout , as well as whitish gray hairs on the facial ruff and rostrum and dorsal regions,” Jung said in a press release.
A lynx ‘painted’ black
This unique finding has also been documented in an article entitled “Paint it black: first record of melanism in the Canadian lynx (Lynx canadensis) ” and published in the journal Mammalia.
The Canada lynx generally has a silver-gray coat in winter, changing to reddish-brown in summer but accompanied by dark spots and black hairs on the tips of its tails and ears, but a completely black lynx has never been seen. It is the first recorded case of melanism in the Canadian lynx.
Researchers haven’t been able to determine whether melanism in any lynx species is adaptive or the other way around, but Jung suggests that the black lynx’s loss of camouflage when hunting in the snow is likely maladaptive. Melanism is relatively common among cats and about a third of all feline species have a melanistic polymorph. Melanism is caused by an increase in the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for color. Black panthers, for example, are just melanistic leopards or jaguars.
“There are only a small number of records of coat color polymorphisms in the genus Lynx ,” Jung writes. “The adaptive significance of melanism in the lynx is unknown, but the loss of camouflage when hunting during the winter is likely a maladaptive .”
Why is its black color negative?
Because the black lynx will find it difficult to camouflage itself when there is snow. It will not be able to blend into the environment as easily as its congeners, and it will be more difficult for it to hunt prey such as the snowshoe hare ( Lepus americanus ), whose feet are covered with hair on the soles of the feet to prevent frostbite during winter. It also feeds on rodents, birds or even deer.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (UIC), the Canadian lynx is listed as “least concern” on the red list of threatened species.
Referencia: Thomas S. Jung, Paint it black: first record of melanism in Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), Mammalia (2022). DOI: 10.1515/mammalia-2022-0025