Iberian lynx: Biology


A brief sketch of the natural history of the species


More than a great cat, a little tiger ...

    The Iberian lynx, known by the scientific name Lynx pardinus, part of the evolutionary line of large carnivores (tigers, lions, jaguars and leopards), which separates three or four million years ago. Their physical appearance, in an intuitive manner is often associated with any of the other existing lines of felines, but the Iberian lynx is closest to a tiger a cat on the evolutionary scale.


A common ancestor for all four current species of lynx

    Scientists currently place the origin of the lynx genus in North America, where about 3.2 million years ago, the first known species evolved: the bobcat (Lynx rufus), which now survives in North America, and the Issoire lynx (Lynx issiodorensis), which became extinct in the Pleistocene. The latter species is thought to be the ancestor of the three remaining species of lynx, by means of a migration to Eurasia through the Bering Strait. Isolation in southern Europe during the glaciations of the Pleistocene provoked the evolution of the cave lynx (Lynx (pardinus) spelaea), whose remains were deposited in caves. This species is the direct ancestor of the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus ). This lynx had larger body size than the Iberian lynx and smaller than the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx). As in many species, glaciations in Eurasia seem to play an important role in speciation of lynx, and so fragmentation and isolation arise in the early Pleistocene the Eurasian lynx in Asia and the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) in America. Although the other three species of lynx have large distribution ranges, the Iberian lynx is exclusively distributed in the Iberian Peninsula during the historical period.


No wonder that these four species have some common characteristics such as short tail, ears with a tuft of long hairs on its tip (called brushes) and beards. However, body sizes of the four have been the origin of the adaptations of each species to their habitat and diet, ranging from the bobcat, the smallest of them, which is approximately 6 kg of average weight to the Eurasian lynx, which can reach 30 kg.





Description of the Iberian lynx physionomy

The Iberian lynx is a medium-sized strict carnivore. Its average weight is around 12.5 kg, significant differences between males and females occurring, with deviations from the average of 3 kg for each sex, with males being the larger. Their average length is 90 cm and its height at withers 45 cm use give it a graceful appearance.


Its most striking features are the ones described as general for lynxes: brushes, beards and short tail with an apical black tassel. To these features, we have to add the ones of the cats themselves: frontal bright eyes, which gives accurate measurement of distances to hunt in short distances, large eyeballs, that let them see in low light conditions, hairy and triangular ears, a prelude to a fine ear able to detect the discrete walking hair-soundproofed legs of rabbits, disproportionately large hands, firmly useful to catch prey, and sharpened nails to prevent preys to escape, which are always kept sharp to be retractable. Remarkably, its high croup as a result of a long hind legs that develop very advantageous jumps in hunting.


His teeth, is a strict carnivore, with big dogs to strike the fatal blow, carnivorous teeth to tear chunks of flesh and small incisors. The dental formula is




    Biometric data obtained from handlings performed in the LIFE project (only individuals elder than three years old):




Males (n = 34)


Females (n = 41)



CI 95%



CI 95%

Body length (A)

85,5 cm



74,89 cm


Tail length (B)

14,25 cm



13,92 cm


Height (C)

46,25 cm



42,29 cm



13,64 kg



10,02 kg





Finally, the spots of its coat give the Iberian lynx the ability to merge in the scrubland they move through. The varieties of coat are usually grouped into "big spots", "intermediate spots" and "thin spots". In fact, these groups leave undefined a wide gradation between the two extremes: from big spots in an orange background, that become aligned in the form of stripes in some individuals, going through spots of different sizes up to skins mottled with flecks so thin that are nearly absent in brown or grayish-brown backgrounds. Although all phenotypes have historically been present in all populations, in Doñana have existed only speck thick specimens from the 60's of last century and as a result of fixation of alleles caused by a "bottleneck ". However, the greatest genetic variability maintained in the population of Sierra Morena has allowed the current presence of individuals with all types of layer by means of a genetic reinforcement of the Doñana population. In 2007, an individual from Andújar was moved to Doñana-Aljarafe to start the genetic reinforcement of this population. After that, three more individuals from Sierra Morena have been translocated into Doñana-Aljarafe by the LIFE-lince project.







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