EDMONTON, Alberta — Sporting long, dense fur and pointy triangular ears, the Canadian lynx is a sight to behold in any color. Now, a black-coated Canadian lynx has been photographed and recorded for the first time ever by a researcher at the University of Alberta in Canada.
Thomas Jung, who is also an employee of the Government of Yukon, recorded the cat in a 30-second video on his cell phone.
The actual sighting took place over two years ago, on Aug. 29th, 2020, in a rural residential area near the town of Whitehorse, Yukon. That area is characterized by low density housing and a mature forest dominated by white spruce. As the video shows, the lynx was spotted from about 50 meters away, and didn’t appear all that bothered by the presence of nearby people and a dog until it eventually left, possibly because of the dog’s barking.
Numerous Canadian lynx experts have analyzed the footage and confirm it depicts a genuine lynx. Unfortunately, the low resolution of the footage does not allow for a detailed examination. Some minor features are visible, though.
“It had a black coat containing whitish gray guard hairs throughout, as well as whitish gray hairs in the facial ruff and the rostrum and dorsal regions,” Jung says in a media release.
What colors are normal for a lynx?
Coat color within the greater Lynx genus tends to be stable, showing little color variation within species in comparison to other members of the cat family (felidae). Canadian lynxes usually have silvery grayish coats in winter that change to reddish brown by summer. These shades are typically accompanied by dark spots, and black hairs on the tips of their tails and ears.
Besides being the first ever recorded case of melanism in Lynx canadensisi, the footage adds another coat color to the small number of known color variations found among any member of the genus Lynx.
Jung explains that coat color variations among mammal species is a topic of particular scientific interest. Depending on the circumstance, various fur colors can either be of evolutionary benefit to the affected animals (adaptive) or confer a disadvantage (maladaptive).
Right now, researchers can’t say if melanism (black fur) in any species of lynx is adaptive or maladaptive. However, Jung theorizes that the black lynx probably misses out on some much-needed camouflage while hunting in the snow. Dark fur may put the animal at a notable disadvantage while hunting hares during winter.
The study is published in the journal Mammalia.