, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 221-237,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 29 Jul 2008

Spectral characteristics of intense mew calls in cat species of the genus Felis (Mammalia: Carnivora: Felidae)


Spectral characteristics of intense mew calls of six cat (sub)species in the genus Felis were studied in captivity: European wildcat (Felis s. silvestris), African wildcat (F. s. lybica), Asiatic steppe cat (F. s. ornata), black-footed cat (F. nigripes), jungle cat (F. chaus), and sand cat (F. margarita). The body weight of the largest (jungle cat) of the six taxa is about six times that of the smallest (black-footed cat), and they live in different habitat types ranging from open desert virtually devoid of vegetation (sand cat) to various types of rather dense forest and shrubland (European wildcat). These habitats differ considerably in the conditions for sound propagation. In this study we analyzed whether and how spectral characteristics of the intense mew calls of these cat taxa are related to their body weight/size and predominant habitat type (open vs. dense). Neither the mean fundamental frequency nor the mean dominant frequency of the intense calls of these cat (sub)species showed an inverse correlation with their respective body weights (“frequency scaling rule”). Rather, the mean dominant frequency is significantly positively correlated with body weight, being lower in the calls of the smaller taxa living in open habitat compared to those of the larger taxa living in dense habitat types. The hypothesis supported best by our data is that spectral features of intense mew calls in the Felis taxa studied have evolved to reduce attenuation when propagating through their respective habitat types.

B. Tonkin-Leyhausen is retired and has no institutional affiliation any longer.