The very first images of a Canadian black lynx

A black-colored Canada lynx has been filmed for the first time by a researcher from the University of Alberta, Canada. The images are not of very good quality, but they nevertheless make it possible to clearly identify the animal. The discovery is reported in the journal Mammal.

Thomas Jung, a researcher at the University of Alberta, filmed the feline with his smartphone in August 2020 from about fifty meters away. The Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) has been spotted in a residential area in the Yukon, near the city of Whitehorse. In the images, the animal seems relatively comfortable in the presence of several people and a barking dog, but eventually leaves. Several experts confirmed that it was indeed a Canadian lynx rather than a bobcat (Lynx rufus). The species mainly applies to Canada and Alaska, as well as the border of some northern states of the United States.

The Canada lynx typically has a silvery or grayish coat in the winter, which can change to a reddish-brown coat dotted with black spots in the summer. The coat of this particular lynx is due to the melanism, a phenotype characterized by the entirely black color of the skin, feathers, scales or, in this case, hair. The video unfortunately does not allow a very detailed exploration of its coat, but the animal still seems to have some whitish gray hairs at the level of its facial collar.

Advantage or disadvantage?

Melanism is relatively common in felines. Three years ago, a wildlife photographer was able to capture some images of a black leopard in Kenya (the first in a hundred years) thanks to a camera trap. Another example with the famous black panthers, which are only melanistic panthers or jaguars. These types of mutations are of interest to researchers because they can be beneficial for the animal (adaptive) or have a negative effect (maladaptive).

For this specific case, it is also not clear if its coloring is an advantage or a disadvantage for its survival. We know that the Canada lynx does indeed generally hunt the snowshoe hare, which likes to frequent burned forests. In this case, the predator’s black coat could blend into its surroundings during the hottest months of the year. Conversely, its coat seems much less suitable for camouflage from its prey during the winter months, when the ground is covered with snow.

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