Saturday, March 29, 2008

Snow Leopard

The Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia),sometimes known as the ounce, is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central Asia from Afghanistan to Lake Baikal and eastern Tibet. The taxonomic position of this species has been subject to change. In the past, many taxonomists included the Snow Leopard in the genus Panthera, with several of the other largest felids, but later it was placed in its own genus, Uncia. However, a recent molecular study places the species firmly within the genus Panthera, although the exact position remains unclear. Along with the Clouded Leopard, it represents an intermediate between so-called big cats and smaller species, as it cannot roar, despite possessing an incomplete ossification of the hyoid bone, which was thought to be essential in allowing the big cats to roar. However, new studies show that the ability to roar is due to other morphological features, especially of the larynx, which are absent in the Snow Leopard. Well known for its beautiful fur, the Snow Leopard has a whitish-tan coat with ringed spots of dark, ashy-brown and rosettes of black. Its tail is heavy with fur and the bottom of its paws are covered with fur for protection against snow and cold.
A pair of Snow Leopards

The life span of a Snow Leopard is normally 15–18 years, but in captivity they can live up to 20 years.

Weighing usually 35 to 55 kilograms, the Snow Leopard is slightly smaller on average than a leopard. Exceptional large males can weigh up to 75 kg, very small females weigh only 25 kg.
The head and body length is 100 to 130 cm, the shoulder height is about 60 cm. The tail measures 80 to 100 cm and is proportionately longer than in any other cat species of comparable size. It helps to maintain its balance on the rugged terrain and unstable surfaces of its habitat and is used to cover its nose and mouth in very cold conditions. The head of the Snow Leopard is relatively small, however the male's head is usually much squarer and wider than that of the female. The big furry feet act as snowshoes, like those of the lynxes. The Snow Leopard has gray-and-white thick fur with numerous rosettes on the flanks and spots on the head and neck.(more on