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Multidisciplinary investigation of a ‘British big cat’: a lynx killed in southern England c. 1903

Multidisciplinary investigation of a ‘British big cat’: a lynx killed in southern England c. 1903
Multidisciplinary investigation of a ‘British big cat’: a lynx killed in southern England c. 1903
The alleged presence of non-native felid species in the British countryside – popularly, though in part erroneously, known as ‘British big cats’ or ‘alien big cats’ – is a long-standing and controversial topic, perennially of interest to both the mass media and amateur naturalists, and with little apparent acceptance from the technical zoological community. Nevertheless, a number of carcasses and captured live specimens have demonstrated the occasional presence within the region of escapees that potentially explain at least some ‘British big cat’ eyewitness records. We report here the existence of a probable Canada lynx, Lynx canadensis, shot in Newton Abbot, Devon, England, in or prior to 1903, and then accessioned to Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. The specimen (represented by extensive skeletal material and a stuffed taxidermy mount) is Bobcat-like in some respects but is identified as a Canada lynx on the basis of skeletal morphology with a high degree of support; attempts to extract DNA were unsuccessful. Stable strontium isotope analysis supports either a recent introduction from western Canada or long-term acclimation to the local area of Devon where it was collected. Although the specimen was undoubtedly an ‘alien’ (an escapee or release from a collection), it is significant as material evidence in demonstrating, for the first time, the presence of a wild-caught, feral, exotic felid dating to the early years of the twentieth century.
0891-2963
441-448
Blake, Max
d2a19bb1-361b-405a-bb6c-08798fa803ee
Naish, Darren
6cd448f6-99cc-4c45-93d1-bdd24ee3d281
Larson, Greger
385f8160-b157-43aa-9dc4-9d91f44c78cf
King, Charlotte L.
40b0446b-a12b-4fa0-a88e-f0f4c15485a9
Nowell, Geoff
cf87e598-f861-4f2d-8e29-eeea1648136d
Sakamoto, Manabu
8c3bf78a-005d-47b9-a836-3eeb3911f059
Barnett, Ross
af9d111e-56a1-452f-b250-53efa5afaad4
Blake, Max
d2a19bb1-361b-405a-bb6c-08798fa803ee
Naish, Darren
6cd448f6-99cc-4c45-93d1-bdd24ee3d281
Larson, Greger
385f8160-b157-43aa-9dc4-9d91f44c78cf
King, Charlotte L.
40b0446b-a12b-4fa0-a88e-f0f4c15485a9
Nowell, Geoff
cf87e598-f861-4f2d-8e29-eeea1648136d
Sakamoto, Manabu
8c3bf78a-005d-47b9-a836-3eeb3911f059
Barnett, Ross
af9d111e-56a1-452f-b250-53efa5afaad4

Blake, Max, Naish, Darren, Larson, Greger, King, Charlotte L., Nowell, Geoff, Sakamoto, Manabu and Barnett, Ross (2014) Multidisciplinary investigation of a ‘British big cat’: a lynx killed in southern England c. 1903. Historical Biology, 26 (4), 441-448. (doi:10.1080/08912963.2013.785541).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The alleged presence of non-native felid species in the British countryside – popularly, though in part erroneously, known as ‘British big cats’ or ‘alien big cats’ – is a long-standing and controversial topic, perennially of interest to both the mass media and amateur naturalists, and with little apparent acceptance from the technical zoological community. Nevertheless, a number of carcasses and captured live specimens have demonstrated the occasional presence within the region of escapees that potentially explain at least some ‘British big cat’ eyewitness records. We report here the existence of a probable Canada lynx, Lynx canadensis, shot in Newton Abbot, Devon, England, in or prior to 1903, and then accessioned to Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. The specimen (represented by extensive skeletal material and a stuffed taxidermy mount) is Bobcat-like in some respects but is identified as a Canada lynx on the basis of skeletal morphology with a high degree of support; attempts to extract DNA were unsuccessful. Stable strontium isotope analysis supports either a recent introduction from western Canada or long-term acclimation to the local area of Devon where it was collected. Although the specimen was undoubtedly an ‘alien’ (an escapee or release from a collection), it is significant as material evidence in demonstrating, for the first time, the presence of a wild-caught, feral, exotic felid dating to the early years of the twentieth century.

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More information

Published date: August 2014
Organisations: Ocean and Earth Science

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 367437
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/367437
ISSN: 0891-2963
PURE UUID: 12287e2f-c131-40c4-9f85-b5de865bacce

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 30 Jul 2014 09:20
Last modified: 16 Jul 2019 20:59

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