It’s true, the IUCN Cat Specialist Group now recognise 2 species of leopard cats:
- Mainland leopard cat, Prionailurus bengalensis (Kerr, 1792)
- Sunda leopard cat, Prionailurus javanensis (Desmarest, 1816)
This split is mainly because of evidence from molecular studies, morphological differences and biogeographic separation.
There was already some suggestion that there could be 2 species of leopard cats since the molecular study by Tamada et al. (2008). However, it looks like the findings by Patel et al. (2017) [which I wrote about in the previous post] who found a “deep split” between mainland and Sunda animals, solidified the decision by the IUCN Cat Specialist Group. This despite Patel et al. (2017) choosing to regard the leopard cat as one species.
With this change, a re-appraisal of the biology of both species, including reassessments for the IUCN Red List, is probably necessary. What is interesting too is the question of how similar are the two species ecologically? We may need to re-examine studies in the past that regarded the two as the same. Despite this, the mainland leopard cat still remains the most widely distributed small wild cat in Asia.
Although both species are regarded as being of “low conservation concern”, there remains some research priorities recommended by specialist group for these two species of leopard cats in terms of phylogeography and morphology.
Our data indicate those in Singapore to be the mainland species. So do I have to change the name of this site to “Through the Eyes of the (Mainland) Leopard Cat”?
Kitchener, A.C., et al. (2017) A revised taxonomy of the Felidae. The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group. Cat News Special Issue 11. 80 pp.
Tamada, T., et al. (2008) Molecular diversity and phylogeography of the Asian leopard cat, Felis bengalensis, inferred from mitochondrial and y-chromosomal DNA sequences. Zoological Science 25: 154–163.