I know everyone's focused on giant lizards today, but that's no excuse to neglect Caturday!
The Spanish Lynx (Lynx pardinus), also called the Iberian Lynx, is a medium-sized felid that can be found in the Iberian Peninsula in the southwest portion of Europe. It is currently considered critically endangered because its population was severely affected by diseases that impacted its main food source, rabbits, and loss of its scrubland habitat. If it were to become extinct, it will be the first species of felid to die out in modern history. The Spanish Lynx was once considered to be a subspecies of the Eurasian Lynx, but further research has revealed that both of these species occurred at the same time during the Pleistocene, and were separated by habitat adaptation.
The Spanish Lynx has slightly different coloring than its Eurasian relatives. Their coats are shorter and more tawny, and their spots stand out vividly. They can grow up to 43 inches (110 cm) in body length, with a short 12-inch (30 cm) tail. They weigh up to 28 pounds (13 kg), with males being slightly heavier than females. The Spanish Lynx is an incredibly specialized hunter, specifically adapted to stalk, catch and kill small and agile prey.
The European Rabbit makes up roughly 80% of the Spanish Lynx's diet, with rodents and hares making up the remaining 20% (very rarely, young ungulates). Two diseases, myxomatosis and a hemorrhagic disease, had a devastating impact on the rabbit populations of the Iberian Peninsula, which impacted the Spanish Lynx population as well. Because they are so specialized, the cats were not able to compensate for such a large shortage of their main food source. Female Lynxes with cubs to feed had to roam widely to find enough food, which also made them susceptible to road accidents.
Female Spanish Lynxes will give birth to a litter of two to three cubs (rarely are litter sizes as large as four and five) after a two-month gestation period. The cubs are able to begin to hunt for themselves at about seven months, but they will stay with their mother until they are twenty months old, at which time they will strike out to establish their own territory. Cubs become aggressive toward each other early in life - they will fight with each other when they are 60 days old, and it's not uncommon for one cub to kill one or more of its own littermates.
Conservation efforts to save the Spanish Lynx from extinction include breeding and reintroduction programs. The cats and their habitat are fully protected - it is illegal to hunt them, though they are still sometime poached. Spanish Lynxes are also susceptible to periodic outbreaks of feline leukemia.