Traveler of southern mountains

 

Tour to Neocene

 

10. Traveller of southern mountains

 

 

 

In Neocene South America has gradually moved to the south. Besides the current earlier surrounding Antarctica, now comes further to the south, to a pole - Antarctica has moved to Indian ocean. And waters, much colder than waters of Peruvian current in a Holocene, approach to coast of South America. Accordingly, the climate of South America has partially changed. North of the continent still warm and damp - current from Atlantic warms it and above it masses of rain clouds are formed. And the south became more inclement and snow. In mountains of the south of continent the real winter with blizzards and snowstorms rages. There coniferous and leaf-falling woods grow, and the fauna has adapted to a rigovous seasonal climate.
One of standard ways of a survival in conditions of a cold climate is to become larger. Mammoths, hairy rhinoceroses and bisons acted this way in different time. And in Neocaenic South America an original creature, the huge groundsloth rodent, became such giant. This giant is similar by constitution simultaneously to gorilla, bear and fossil sloth Megatherium. Groups of these animals consisting of dominant male, two or three females, youngsters and cubs of different age, make migrations in mountains and foothills of Tierra del Fuego and southern Patagonia. They eat branches of trees, in the summer meeting on plains among river valley woods. In the winter groups of giants migrate to the mountain valleys protected from ocean winds, carrying snow.
Now there is summer. At one female of group pair of cubs has been born: they are already with opened eyes and in two hours after birth are capable to stand on legs. The female suckles them, sitting on hinder legs. She holds at once both offsprings by one forepaw, and other forepaw lasts at this time to branches of a tree. Hooked claws hook on a tree branch and bend it, and the giant rodent starts to bite soft ends of sprouts. The female needs to eat well - cubs consume much of milk. But soon they already will start to consume gradually the food of adult animals.
Near to young mum one-year-old youngsters frisk - they were born the last year. They are two cubs, another two youngsters of group were lost for past year: first was killed by predators, second was lost for famine in the winter. But survived ones already weigh more than 500 kg, the majority of predatory animals is not terrible for them. And the living in group will make their life absolutely safe. But however it will proceed not in parental group - the young female will go to any new group two years later, and the young male will be expelled even earlier by his own daddy. And now they can enjoy food and safety.
In a river valley woods involving family groups of groundsloth rodents grow. Between groups solitary males who hope to seize power force in a clan, having overthrown previous the head of family, wander. And one such "knight errant" walks on plain near to family of giants. The head of family feels approach of the stranger, and stops to chew melancholically a branch of a tree. He bypasses the clan and leaves on a position between clan and stranger. The head of the family is full of might, and he shows it: having risen on hinder legs, the huge animal stamps them, swinging long forepaws. Thus he loudly snorts and breathes noisily. Demonstration has worked - the stranger goes away, waddling like a bear.
From time to time two clans meet on a watering place. Then both males show each other strange “dance of the sovereign” while one of them will not concede superiority at a watering place. And other giant waits, while all clan of his contender will drink enough.
Huge creatures are connected in their life to set of smaller species of animals. They also would be glad to refuse some connections, but it is not for them to decide, with whom to be friends and with whom to be at war. Any huge animal involves set of parasites, and the groundsloth rodent is not exception. In its wool various lice reaching lengths of 1 - 2 cm, trichodecteses and mites settle. Besides its wool different beetles, moths and other insects visit. One of them eat blood of a giant, others eat hair and particles of a died out top layer of skin. But all of them fairly annoy the huge rodent. The animal worries strongly, constantly scratches, eats badly and can grow thin strongly. And in conditions of cold and rather inclement winter it is dangerous. But there is the help from this misfortune.
One of females of a clan constantly scratches: she has passed through a bush where she was attacked by hungry mites. She smells about, and suddenly catches in air a jet of sharp, but pleasant musk smell. The animal finds the source of smell, and approaches to alone worth small tree. The smell proceeds from one of branches: on it odorous secretions of the special gland are put. The female sniffs noisy at a branch, and on her sounds the small mammals which had made this odorous label appears. It is a tiny ginger-white animal like the shrew in size. It is the doctor caenolestes, the insectivorous marsupial. It jumps on a head of the groundsloth rodent and disappears in a wool of the giant. The female comes back to the clan: she has made everything, that has found necessary. The further care of her cleanliness lays on tiny small mammals which runs in her wool.
The doctor caenolestes dexterously makes the way among hair of the giant rodent. His nose helps him to follow in the tracks of numerous parasites. For day this tiny creature eats them more, than itself weighs. And the hunting begins. The small predator quickly searches lice and the mites plentifully breeding in wool of a rodent, and devours them. Gradually he surveys back and sides of the huge client, carefully clearing it. A wool of the giant is the convenient place for life: here it is always warmly and plenty of food. Some doctor caenolesteses almost will spend all life on backs of groundsloth rodents, passing from one animal to another one while they sleep. Frequently tiny marsupials form pairs and give posterity on backs of giants. However they can live independently, finding food in leaf litter. The doctor caenolestes is species recently has taken for a way of the adaptation to symbiosis with other animals. Probably, in the future any of its descendants will live only on a body of large animals.
More often to travel on backs of huge rodents young caenolesteses leaving overpopulated places are started up. This way they succeed to occupy even the remote mountain valleys where it is impossible for them to get there independently - cold mountain ridges prevent it.
Summer is ending. From far ocean the cold wind starts to blow more often. Leaves on trees gradually also turn yellow and crease, nights become colder, and once in the morning a pool from which groundsloth rodents drank on the eve water, has become covered by thin ice cover. It is a signal: it is time to go to mountains. In some weeks snow shall cover plain by thick layer, and damp winds from ocean will transform the top layer of snow into an ice crust cutting paws. Only few species of animals can survive on winter ice plains. And in mountains life conditions are better - snow clouds from the east dump their cargo on plains, and in mountains it is much less of snow. Valleys are protected from piercing winds, and there on northern slopes grass is more thicker, and it easily can be grazed under a thin layer of snow.
Clans of groundsloth rodents make long travel to the west. They cross plains of Patagonia and soon approach to foothills of Andes. Here for young animals the most difficult part of a way begins. They should keep abreast from adults and also must remember mountain ridges and a way to valleys. Sometimes the mountain ridge can be blocked by landslide. It is the big problem for animals - they should make transition through mountains. Some clans of the young animals not knowing all tracks, remain to spend winter in foothills, but it is connected to one difficulty: all arriving clans are fed there for a way through mountains, and the forage can not suffice for wintering.
The clan of groundsloth rodents under the leading of skilled male promotes further in mountains. The leader of a clan makes such transitions last ten years. The clan keeps along channel of the river - so it is easily to hold a direction. A unique obstacle is the waterfall which should be bypassed on other coast. The clan passes a stream with icy-cold water wade. It is not pleasant to one of cubs - it shakes a head and snorts, but its mother calls it, grunting, and the cub overcomes fear of the water and rushing through a stream.
Soon the clan leaves a valley of the river and overcomes a small mountain ridge. Long forepaws render rodents the big service: with their help it is easy to cling to stones and to climb. Last effort of tired animals allows them to go down in a valley. Only one animal of this group is not tired during this transition – it is the doctor caenolestes who has already got over to another female and assiduously frees her from parasites. Now it is more difficult to him to find food – during the winter the wool of giants becomes thicker. But it is possible to transfer winter colds easily in it: the body of a rodent serves to caenolestes as huge heater.
The valley protected from winds by hillsides is a fine place for wintering. Here it is cool, but in sunny days a slope inverted to the midday sun, gets warm well. On it the layer of snow is more thin, and a grass is thicker.
Some trees in mountains do not lose small leaves in the winter, but groundsloth rodents bypass them aside: these leaves are very bitter and it is possible for mammals to eat these leaves only in case of extreme famine. In the winter groundsloth rodents are fed mainly with grass, raking snow above it by forepaws. A grass is not the best kind of food: it is rigid and difficultly digesting. But huge stomaches of animals are the real chemical laboratory in which rigid fibres and rough tissues are excellently digested.
Young sprouts of some bushes are too good for feeding. On them there were yellow leaves, but the groundsloth rodent eats also tops of sprouts covered with thin bark. Young animals study to survive hungry winter time, looking for adults and trying their food. When the young male approaches to the head of the clan, eating a bush, he hums discontentedly, giving to the cub to understand, that to him is necessary to steer clear. Other adult females also are not in mood to share food with grown up cubs. Only their native mother admits them closer and enables them to try that she is eating.
Adults are occupied with other problems, rather than young growth: at them now it begins the breeding season. The male bypasses females, sniffing at their wool under a throat and in the region of a waist. Repugnatorial glands are located here, and at the moment of readiness for pairing they start to emit specific aroma. Having felt such smell from one of females, the head of a clan starts to show to her his intentions: he bypasses the female around, shaking a head and roaring. Then he rises on hinder legs and starts to shake forepaws boldly standing in front of the female. The female ready to pairing turns to him back and lies down a belly on snow as a sign of submission. After that there is a pairing.
One event relieves the monotony of clan life: the neighbour goes down from a slope. She is the lonely female, and she is ready for pairing. And the dominating male immediately includes her to the clan. And in some days this female becomes pregnant. Females establish hierarchy, rising on hinder legs and measuring growth with each other. The place of the new female in hierarchy is not the highest one. But she is still young and later can literally weight in a society and grow up.
The clan of groundsloth rodents involves not only doctor caenolesteses, but also other animals. From afar it seems, that on digging places of giants snow has simply fallen. But the spot of "snow" moves, and then flies up, sparkling bright red spots and bursting in loud hoarse shouts. "Snow" appears flight of white snow parakeets. They take seats on branches of a tree and start to be outvoiced loudly, communicating with neighbours. On the ground dug out by huge rodents they search for the roots, the insects stiffened because of cold and small pebbles necessary for food ground in a stomach. And red spot under wings serve birds for contact, and at the same time as warning about any danger. Sudden rise of one bird can become an alarm signal for all flight.
Snow parakeets have perfectly adapted to an inhabiting in inclement mountain conditions. In the evening they are flied to a collective nest in which they will spend night in heat, and in the morning fly out to food search again. The nest is constructed from brushwood and warmed by a grass, it each year it is built on and under repair.
However the fact that parakeets can be met in a plenty and in same place, does not slip away from attention of predators. And at pre-dawn time the striped body of one predator slides between branches, coming closer to a huge collective nest. It is the marten opossum having gone to prey search. And it hopes to profit by a sleepy parakeet not without reason. The animal dexterously jumps from branch to branch, constantly smelling air. In rising sun light entrances to nests are perfectly visible to it, and the animal can not solve, what nest to start from. Silently having stolen up to one of entrances, it cautiously looks in it – the nest is empty... But as soon as it has put a nose in the next hole, deafening shout of alarm was uttered. The opossum jumped aside from a nest, and above its head first of woken up parakeets is already hovering. And new birds join it. Soon all colony is already in air. Birds are woken by shout of one of them, but it is better to wake up so, than in teeth of a predator. The numerical superiority and strong beaks allow parakeets to attack, and they already drive striped long-muzzled predator on branches, shouting and from time to time attacking on it. One of birds seizes a neck of a predator, and starts to peck its muzzle. And only the narrow tree-trunk hollow rescues the marsupial predator from the feathered rider.
parakeets are perfectly protected from a predator, but there is one thing against what they are powerless. And not only they, but also furious predators, and gigantic groundsloth rodents are. These are forces of a nature which at times interfere with life of live beings. Even approach of long-awaited spring can pass very dramatically.
Above mountains rich snow clouds gather. They are gathering in valleys, making invisible even the nearest mountain peaks. Visibility falls quickly: the snowfall begins. Groundsloth rodents wait it having bunched among trees. Snow parakeets are hidden in a nest. The predator is not terrible to them: the marten opossum now sits in a tree-trunk hollow, waiting a bad weather. And the nature brings down tons of snow on valleys.
The snowfall stops only next day. It has brought many efforts to inhabitants of a valley: the height of a snow cover has reached one meter. Now the meal has turned to luxury. Groundsloth rodents dig out snow, trying to find though few stems of grass. parakeets take seats above them, forcing down snow from branches of trees. They wait, while huge animals will leave, to find though something edible for themselves. Groundsloth rodents are very thin: all stock of fat is spent on wintering, and it is still long before appearing of fresh vegetation. They search for bushes with edible branches on dangerous hillsides, reaching up to the wretched rests of the plants which are sticking up between stones. Young animals have advantage: it is easier to them to reach the bushes growing on slopes. But search of plants in such places is dangerous to life: one of young animals is broken from a slope and falls downwards. It dies immediately, because of neck fracture. The clan gathers around of a dead body, outstretched in snow. Animals push the dead neighbour by noses, roar and sniff at it. But the young animal will not rise any more, and neighbours abandon it, going to a new place of feeding. And above a body of a rodent… snow parakeets are already hovering. They do not miss a case to eat some meat, as seeds and branches of trees are eaten for a long time. Strong beaks break off skin of carcass, and snow-white feathering of birds is already dirtied by blood. parakeets know by experience, that they are not last ones to whom this carcass has attracted, therefore they hasten very much. Bright spots under their wings have already drawn attention of the marten opossum, and it hurries up to receive the share of meat. The short-legged animal having fresh scars on a muzzle skips on snow by high jumps. Having frightened away birds, it sinks into in meat and starts to fill a stomach. Literally by tail of an eye it notices fast movement among snowdrifts, and care takes top above famine. The opossum rushes away just to the moment when from behind snowdrifts the huge jagueira has jumped out. The spotty animal uses the right of strong on this feast, and other inhabitants of mountains understand it and willy-nilly respect its right. The marten opossum is hidden in bushes, observing for a feast of a huge animal. At least, the rests can come to it.
The body of the groundsloth rodent was very lean, therefore it remained a little meat on bones. The jagueira carefully gnawed from bones everything, what it could do. Even joints were used: from them cartilage was completely chewed up. When the jagueira went out, on a share of the marsupial predator there were only wretched pieces of meat on splinters of bones and pieces of skin.
The huge marten not simply left somewhere from the eaten carcass. The constant food source is necessary for a large predator, and it has gone to search for it: it can be a clan of groundsloth rodents. If it will carry, one more two young and careless animals can become prey of the spotty predator.
Traces of the clan of rodents are very appreciable - deep digging places in snow and set of footprints give a predator representation about physical condition and number of animals. And soon the jagueira feels for the thing that for a long time was searched - a smell of groundsloth rodents. They are grazed on a slope of mountain, digging snow in searches of grass. And the huge marten began to creep from them, being hidden for bushes. It expects to attack sideways, moving along a slope: this way it is easier to distinguish and chase a weak animal. The weak animal most likely will run downhill, stumbling by the way and putting of damage to itself. It will not come to finish such animal.
Having made fair "hook", the jagueira comes on the side of the big stones which are sticking up from snow on a slope of mountain. It prepares for solving jump. All body is extremely nerved and intensed, muscles are ready to a jump...
And all is broken. Sharp shout of a snow parakeet forces groundsloth rodents to be nervous. They smell air, and one of females has sensed a smell of the jagueira. Disturbing lowing forces giants to accept all-round defense: they encircle the unique escaped cub: it is reliably protected from all directions. And the giant marten decides to stake on natural fear: it jumps on a stone, showing itself: the animal loudly growls, grins and makes aggressive attacks on groundsloth rodents. Returning to it giants wave forepaws with huge claws. The marten rises closely: from a stone it jumps on snow and slowly advances against giants animals. But nevertheless they are most numerous, and they are stronger despite of famine. Waves of paws with long claws force the marten to observe a distance. Approaching to a clan from any side, it meets rodents spitefully growling and waving paws. And collective protection pays for itself: the marten turns around and goes away.
Spring tempers justice for mercy, and soon the warm wind from equator causes to thaw snow. The sun heats hotly and hotly. In deep gorges snow still lays, but on warmed up slopes it is hot. The ground is warmed, and from the ground the young grass grows up. Bushes fairly picked for winter, grow new sprouts. Life proceeds.
Groundsloth rodents prepare for return wandering to the east, in foothills. They have recovered eating young grass after famine, and now they are fit. The clan does not start the travel too early: mountain ridges are covered by snow and it is dangerous to pass through them. And two weeks after snow thawing it is possible to start the way.
Travel to plains passes successfully: the clan goes well-known way, feeding up by plants. They cross the stream owerflowed banks from thawed snow and had turned to the fast flow. It is difficult to make it in the same place, as in autumn, therefore the clan chooses ford below on current.
Under one mountain ridge clan founds out the carcass of the young neighbour male. It has started a journey earlier, and was lost in a snow avalanche. Now its body is spread out and represents mass of wool and bones. But near to a place of tragedy the survivor of it was settled on a tree – it is the doctor caenolestes. Its pleasant aroma draws attention of the young male from a clan. The tiny mammal have not best time: it goes hungry, and approach of huge animal promises to it a plentiful meal of soft parasitic insects. Therefore the doctor caenolestes without superfluous meditations leaves the tree and settles in wool of the groundsloth rodent.
The clan comes to foothills. The plain becomes much more equal, on it there are groves of trees with edible foliage. Leaflets are unfold, and the grass has grown high. And on it herds of herbivores are grazed. Groundsloth rodents pass by herds of timid animals similar to deer. They are newcomers from northern pampas, going to winter back in warm pampas. And in sea of high grasses struggle for life takes place. And there fauna is under the rule of the ruthless predatory bird, hunting in pack, but not of the beast’s one.

Bestiary

Snow parakeet (Leucopsitta nivalis)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: Psittacidae

Picture by Amplion
Colorization by Carlos Pizcueta

Parakeet can live in snows, isn’t it? Undoubtedly, the majority of parakeet species are tropical forest birds. But even among modern representatives of order Psittaciformes there are frigostable species. The kea parrot nests in mountains of New Zealand where a lot of snow in the winter falls. Nowadays exterminated Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) was the most northern species of group: its area reached North-American Great Lakes. The monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) and zebra parakeet (Melopsittacus undulatus) can live in climate of modern Central Europe, living and breeding in street open-air cages without problems.
The snow parakeet descends from the modern South-American monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus), having adapted to an inhabiting in cool mountain climate and to presence of snow cover. It is little bit larger in size than a modern starling, but it seems large because of a long tail. The feathering of a bird has white color, it is rich. Under wings there are bright red marks. The feathering protects a bird good during winter colds - for additional of thermal insulation even legs are feathered up to fingers. Besides for protection against a cold this bird, similarly to the modern monk parakeet, spends the night in collective nests. The bird has collective habit of life as well as many other parrots and parakeets, keeps by flights up to hundred birds and more, defends from a predator in common. parakeet eats buds, leaves, young sprouts of plants, in winter it is fed on the ground on digging places of groundsloth rodents.
It nests in flight in a huge covered collective nest made of branches, grass and brushwood, located on a high tree. The nest includes up to 40 - 50 "apartments" - by amount of breeding pairs in flight. Each flight keeps in the certain territory where extraneous birds of this species are not supposed. Only in the beginning of spring, closer to breeding season solitary birds fly from one flight to another in searches of pair. Birds nest after settled warming, in the Southern hemisphere it is in the beginning of September. For one year there are about 2 clutches. In a clutch there are 3 - 4 eggs, both birds hatch and food nestlings alternately. Nestlings hatch in 20 days, at the age of 40 days they leave the nest.

Marten opossum (Dryodelphis agilis)
Order: Didelphimorphia
Family: Didelphidae

This animal is marsupial carnivore, the descendant of the southern opossum (Didelphis albiventris), ecological analogue of clambering weasels. It lives in woods of a temperate zone of South America. Length of a body is up to 30 cm, length of a tenacious tail - 25 - 30 cm.
The animal is adapted to clambering habit of life, can make long jumps from tree to tree and easily runs on trunks upwards and downwards. Paws are short, tenacious, mobile in joints (so, foot can be easily turned back as at the squirrel), the thumb is opposed the others. On all fingers there are long bent claws. The claw on the big toe has a comb-shaped structure, it is intended for a care of fur. Skull low, the muzzle part is extended in length. Ears are short, jut out wool only a little. The wool is rich, it covers the top part of hands and feet and also almost all tail (excepting the strip on its bottom side); colouring of a body is brown with cross light grey strips on shoulders and sides, above eyes there are rounded light spots, throat and chest are white.
It is the solitary predator eating small mammals and birds. In summer animal includes in a ration vegetative food: fruits and berries, oily seeds.
Pairing usually occurs in middle of winter though in cold years it can proceed closer to spring. Pregnancy can be delayed because of pausing of development of embryos. Usually underdeveloped cubs (8 - 10) are born in the beginning of spring. About 9 weeks they spend in female’s marsupium, later getting to her back (usually to this time no more than 3 - 5 cubs survives). From 11-week age the female accustoms them to meat food. Youngsters keep with mother up to the end of summer, training to hunt. Later mother expels them from the territory.

Doctor caenolestes (Microcaenolestes parasitivorus)
Order: Paucituberculata
Family: Caenolestidae



Tiny marsupial mammal (length of a body is up to 4 cm, a tail - 6 cm). It reminds by proportions the mouse with big ears and eyes. Paws are prehensile, fingers have grown together in groups (I + II; III + IV + V), tail is hairless and prehensile. Wool is colored in ochre-red color, on a head there is longitudinal black strip, around of eyes white "glasses" are, stomach is white.
Animal has remarkable habit of life: it frequently is meeting in wool of large ground mammal, eating their parasites and the insects casually got in wool. But the animal can live quite independently, in tree-trunk hollows, eating non-parasitic insects. In this case the animal nevertheless renders services of the cleaner to large animals. It involves possible "clients" by original method: animal’s repugnatorial glands near to the basis of a tail are well advanced. Secret of these glands emitting by mammal at will has the pleasant musk smell involving "client" animal to dwelling of the cleaner. Usually large and settled animals (for example, at the predators living in a certain lair, or at burrowing animals living in a constant settlement) have constant cleaners, making habitation near their shelter. Some mammals of this species are capable to live any time and even to breed on backs of large groundsloth rodents, being settled on their backs to new territories. Settled animals hibernate during the winter, but ones living on a body of groundsloth rodents keep activity all seasons.
This marsupial breeds in the beginning of spring, the female gives rise to 4 - 7 cubs which will spend in mother’s marsupium about 6 weeks. Further cubs keep on a back of the female up to 10-week age, eating milk and gradually passing on adult food. At the age of 13 weeks they pass to independent life.

Groundsloth rodent (Tardimegamys longimanus)
Order: Rodents (Rodentia)
Family: Tardimegamyidae



The huge rodent, reminding by proportions the American ground sloths Megatherium and Megalonyx became extinct in late Pleistocene. It descends from one of modern rodent agouti (Dasyprocta) species. The animal had adapted to inhabiting in moderately warm climate, lives on southern plains of continent and in foothills.
The animal is sizable: height of the adult male standing on hind paws is up to 4 meters, the female - up to 3,5 meters. Hind legs are stronger, but shorter than forepaws, toe claws are thick and blunt. Forepaws are long and thin. On fingers II and III there are long hooked claws (length up to 25 cm by middle line). They are used for bending branches down, snow and the ground digging, and also for defense against predators. The thumb partly opposes to fingers, that feature allows animal to take even thin branches and stalks from the ground. The animal is fed, sitting on the ground in a vertical pose. It moves in a "semi-bipedal" pose similar to the gorilla, basing on long forward extremities. At such movement fingers with long claws are bent inside and load falls to the external side of a hand, where the skin is thick and cornificated. A tail is not present. Wool is long, to winter a rich underfur grows. The adult male has a wool of dark-grey color, on a chest there is a white spot which form is various at different individuals: from big single up to a narrow strip or several small spots. Female and cubs have a wool of gray-brown color with more dark head. The end of a muzzle is white at adult animal of both sexes, cubs have dark muzzles.
Animals keep by family groups of one male, some (2 - 4) females and cubs in the age of till one year. Once a year in middle of spring the female gives rise to 2 (less often - 1 or 3) cubs covered with wool with opened eyes. About 2 months they are feeding mainly by mother’s milk. The female feeds cubs, sitting on hinder legs. At the age of half-year young animals completely pass to food of adult animals. They eat leaves of trees and bushes, fruits; frequently feed near reservoirs by rhizomes and tubers of marsh plants. To winter animals accumulate the big layer of fat. In winter time they dig grass and evergreen plants out under snow, gnaw young branches of trees.

Jagueira (Eironca horrida)
Order: Carnivors (Carnivora)
Family: Mustelidae

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

The largest predator of South America: length of a body is up to 2 meters, weight - up to 160 kg. It descends from the modern South-American marten tayra (Eira barbara), lives in rather cool areas of continent: in a southern part and in mountain areas, preferring for life woodlands and forests.
By proportions it is similar to a short-legged cat, but the head as against cat's one, is extended. Than jaws are longer than cat's ones, the animal kills prey by a strong sting in a neck. A tail is long and rather flexible. Claws are not pulling, allow the animal to swarm up trees. Wool is long, to winter it becomes appreciable thicker. The basic colouring of the body is ochre-red, on sides and shoulders there are small roundish black spots. On a back spots merge in short longitudinal strips. Throat, stomach and ends of paws are white.
This is an active predator, preying large ground vertebrates, sometimes it can fishing.
Once a year in the spring (in southern hemisphere - in the end of September) the female gives rise to 4 - 6 cubs. About 3 months cubs live in a lair among bushes, in cave or in hollow tree trunk. They are feeding by milk, since 2-nd month of life - by semidigested meat. Cubs start to be fed by fresh meat from 5 months of life, since 7 months they study to hunt. The pack remains under mother’s care up to the age of 18 – 20 months. Feeling approach of new delivery, the female expels cubs from the territory. Sexual maturity comes at the age of 5 - 6 years, life expectancy is till 30 years.

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