Serval, Leptailurus serval
December 2010

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Serval

Image Credit: The_Rambling_Man from WikiMedia Commons


TAXONOMY & NOMENCLATURE
(Allen 1939) (Johnson et al 2006) (ITIS 2010) (Macdonald et al 2010) (Nowell & Jackson 1996) (O'Brien & Johnson 2005, 2007)

Describer (Date): Schreber 1776 for Leptailurus serval

Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
        Class: Mammalia
             Order: Carnivora
                Family: Felidae (cats)
                   Subfamily: Felinae (all small and medium-sized non-non-pantherine cats)
                           Genus: Leptailurus (only one species in this genus)
                                  Species: Leptailurus serval
                                        Subspecies 18 listed by ITIS, 17 by Allen (1939)


Taxonomic History and Nomenclature Phylogeny

DISTRIBUTION & HABITAT
(Bowland 1990) (Henley 1997) (IUCN 2008) (Nowell & Jackson 1996) (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)

Distribution (IUCN 2008)

  • Mainly sub-Saharan Africa but not tropical rainforests and Saharan desert
  • Small populations reported recently north of Sahara in Morocco, northern Algeria, and some have been reintroduced in Tunisia
    • These populations probably have been separated from sub-Saharan populations for thousands of years. (Nowell & Jackson 1996)
  • Populations formerly along coastal belt in Cape Province South Africa; occasional reports continue (Stuart 1985) (Henley 1997)
Habitat:
  • Although widely distributed, habitat requirements quite specific: all types of grassland (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)
    • Well-watered savanna long-grass environments, especially reed beds, and other riparian habitats (IUCN 2008)
    • In forests if sufficient grassy patches exist
    • Not in rainforests
  • Alpine grasslands up to 3,800 m (12,467 ft) (Nowell & Jackson 1996)
  • Isolated populations in humid scrub and mixed woodlands in Morocco, northern Tunisia and possibly Algeria.
  • Can tolerate cold, with frost and snow. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)
  • Servals tolerate agricultural development that encourages rodent populations, as long as enough water and refuge is available. (Bowland 1990)
 
Serval Distribution Map

Serval distribution.
Adapted from www.d-maps.com
according to IUCN fact sheet
Click here or on map for detailed distribution (IUCN)

 



PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS
(Kitchener et al 2010) (Skinner & Chimimba 2005) (Skinner & Smithers 1990) (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)

Body Weight: Male 9-18 kg (20-40 lb); Female 9-12 kg (20-26 lb)
Head/Body Length: 59-92 cm (23-36 in)
Tail Length: 20-38 cm (8-15 in)
Shoulder Height: 0.6 m (2 ft); Sunquist & Sunquist (2002) note this is 12 cm (4.7 in) taller than a caracal of the same weight.

General Pelage Sexual Dimorphism Other Physical Characteristics

BEHAVIOR & ECOLOGY
(Geertsema 1985, 1991) (Kingdon 1977) (Leyhausen 1979, 1990) (Skinner & Chimimba 2005) (Smithers 1983) (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)


Activity Cycle Territory Size (Geertsema 1985) Social Groups

      General        Territorial Behavior       Aggression (Kingdon 1977) (Leyhausen 1979) Play Communication

   Visual Signs (Kingdon 1977)       Vocalization (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002) (Kingdon 1977)       Olfaction/Scent Marking
Locomotion Interspecies Interaction (Geertsema 1976)

DIET & FEEDING
(Bowland & Perrin 1993) (Geertsema 1976,1981,1985,1991) (Macdonald et al 1010) (Smithers 1978) (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002, 2009)


REPRODUCTION & DEVELOPMENT
(Kingdon 1977) (Leyhausen 1990) (Smithers 1983) (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002) (Wackernagel 1968)

Courtship (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002) Reproduction Gestation
Birth
  • Most births in wild occur about a month before prey densities are highest (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)
  • Make den in dense vegetation or unused aardvark or porcupine burrow. (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)
  • Litter size: usually 1-3; 5 rare
  • Newborn: (Wackernagel 1968)
    • Blind
    • Weigh 250 g (about 9 oz)
    • Soft woolly coat; more gray than in adults (Smithers 1983)
    • Ears folded, but unfold and grow rapidly (Kingdon 1977)
      Infant (< 1 year old) (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)
  • Eyes open 9-13 days
  • Mother brings food to den after 1 month
  • Mother's hunting restricted to smaller area than normal when she has cubs
  • Weaning at about 4-5 months (Leyhausen 1990)
  • Young get adult canines at 6 months
  • Begin hunting for themselves around 6-7 months.
      Juvenile
  • Most young are chased away by adults, beginning at about 1 year
  • Newly independent young may be tolerated in mother's home range for one year and longer
    • Females tolerated longer than males

Serval Cub
A serval cub's ears are short and folded at birth, but rapid growth  quickly transforms them into a characteristic feature of this cat. 
      Adult Longevity     
Mortality

MANAGED CARE
(Breitbeil 2002)


POPULATION AND CONSERVATION STATUS
(Breitenmoser-Wursten et al 2008) (ISIS 2008) (Nowell & Jackson 1996) (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)

Population Status
Conservation (Breitenmoser-Wursten et al 2008) Threats to survival (Breitenmoser-Wursten et al 2008)
Important Web Resources:

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