Spotted Linsangs (Prionodon pardicolor): Ringtails of Continental Southeast Asia

by DerdriuMarriner

Spotted coats and tiptoe gaits advise wildlife of the speed and stinkability of African linsangs. Asia's spotted linsangs are fast too. But they never fight dirty or stinky.

• Callery pear, gingko, and tree-of-heaven come to mind as malodorous plants.
• Poisonous pitohuis fit the bill in regard to smelly birds.
• Brown marmorated stink bugs head the list of stinky insects.

But the skunk is not the only mammal capable of releasing unpleasant scents.
• West Africa’s linsangs -- Leighton’s (Poiana leightonii) and Richardson’s (Poiana richardsonii) oyans -- join other viverrid (“ferret-like”) mammals in possessing perineal (anal scent) glands.

But scientists know that what is true of African linsangs may not hold for Asian linsangs and vice versa.
• For example, Asia’s banded (Prionodon linsang) and spotted (Prionodon pardicolor) linsangs lack anal scent glands.
• They indeed relate closer to felids than African linsangs, who relate closer to scent-endowed genets.

Spotted linsang homeland includes southwestern China's limestone forests in Yunnan province:

according to legends of mountainous Yi people, Ashima rock is namesake of Ashima, metamorphosed into limestone formation as permanent separation from her chosen suitor.
Ashima rock; Stone Forest, Shilin county, Yunnan province, China
Ashima rock; Stone Forest, Shilin county, Yunnan province, China

 

Cloven lips and moist noses announce the importance of scent in information-gathering, processing and sharing aspects of faunal lives. They are among the hallmarks of Asia’s spotted linsangs. The dark nose completes an elongated face whose:

  • Ears are alertly prominent;
  • Eyes are big, dark, and round-pupiled;
  • Muzzle is pointed;
  • Neck looks l-o-n-g;
  • Whiskers project super-sensory fineness.

The light-colored lips form a pale mouth whose lower and upper jaws respectively configure a super-sharp dentition (arrangement, kind, and number of teeth) of:

  • 6 incisors, 2 canines, 8 premolars, and 2 molars;
  • 6 incisors, 2 canines, 8 premolars, and 4 molars.

The elongated, dusky-brown to lightly-buffed head has 2 dark stripes each running:

  • Along the neck;
  • From the ears backward.

 

A spotted linsang’s elegant, long, slender body belies the power behind:

  • 5 retractile-clawed digits per paw;
  • Fleet, hair-covered paw soles with hairless, slip-resistant digital-area pads;
  • Longer, muscled hind-limbs and shorter, strong fore-limbs.

It claims as corporeal ground-colors ranges from dusky-brown to lightly-buffed. Three or four longitudinal rows of dark spots decorate the upper body. The spots decrease in size as upper-sides merge with under-sides. They grace each fore-leg all the way down to the paw and each hind-leg all the way down to the hock. They remain absent from the spotted linsang’s cylindrical, long, non-prehensile (“non-grasping”) tail. The balance- and blanket-serving tail instead showcases alternating series of 8 – 9 each of broadly dark and narrowly white rings.

 

Taxidermy exhibit in the Kunming Natural History Museum of Zoology, Kunming, Yunnan, China.
Taxidermy exhibit in the Kunming Natural History Museum of Zoology, Kunming, Yunnan, China.

 

The alternating dark and light coloring accentuates the spotted linsang’s:

  • Attractive, dense, short, soft fur so velvety in appearance and texture;
  • Diminutive physique;
  • Sinewy sleekness.

Female and male spotted linsangs attain physical and sexual maturity with:

  • Chest girths: 5.31 – 5.91 inches (13.5 – 15 centimeters);
  • Ear lengths: 1.18 – 1.38 inches (3 – 3.5 centimeters);
  • Head-and-body lengths: 14.17 – 16.93 inches (33 – 43 centimeters);
  • Head-to-occiput (back part of the head or skull) measurements: 2.99 inches (7.6 centimeters);
  • Hind-limb: 2.36 – 2.68 inches (6 – 6.8 centimeters);
  • Sole-to-shoulder heights: 5.12 – 5.51 inches (13 – 14 centimeters);
  • Tail lengths: 11.81 – 14.76 inches (30 – 37.5 centimeters);
  • Weights: 1.32 – 2.65 pounds (0.6 – 1.2 kilograms).

The lower ranges describe adult females whereas the upper ranges pertain to male adults.  

 

Despite a blanket-like tail and a warm-furred body, all spotted linsangs avoid sheltering in such accessible but exposed, open-air, unconfined, and weather-sensitive homes as tree branches and forks. They instead choose to build carbon- and nitrogen-rich, comfortable, roomy, spherical nests of leaves and sticks either in burrows at the bases of palm trees or within tree hollows. A nest functions as one in never-ending series of nomadic homes which are:

  • Constructed quickly, inhabited briefly, and re-occupied by squirrels;
  • Located within the spotted linsang’s home ranges.

It is meant to accommodate several bodies, possibly 1 – 2 parents and 2 annually-born offspring. Estrus lasts 11 days, and the breeding months of February and August particularly inspire flurries of nest-building.

 

Floral synecology: Spotted linsangs build nests in burrows at the base of palm trees or within tree hollows.

Chusan palm (Trachycarpus fortunei), also known as windmill palm or Chinese windmill palm
Chusan palm (Trachycarpus fortunei), also known as windmill palm or Chinese windmill palm

 

Adult females deliver newborns who endure temporary blindness but who already have their fur. They probably determine the content and course of offspring-raising since newborns require maternal milk until weaning. They undoubtedly emphasize foraging and foraying skills since adults are carnivores (“meat-eaters”) even though African linsangs are omnivores (“everything-eaters”). Post-weaning diets expand to include such solid food as:

  • Bird eggs;
  • Frogs;
  • Insects;
  • Reptiles;
  • Small mammals.

The mammalian components in post-weaning, solid-food diets necessitate ambushing skills to:

  • Climb, jump, and leap in pursuit;
  • Kill with a powerful, quick, razor-sharp bite to the nape of the neck.

Successful predation results from:

  • Super-quiet digitigrade (“on the digits,” “tiptoe”) gait;
  • Super-rapid belly-crawling before the lethal pounce;
  • Super-sharp hearing, smell, and vision.

 

 

Spotted linsangs claim survivalist appearances and sustainable behaviors from Nepal eastward to:

  • Bhutan;
  • India (Assam, Sikkim, West Bengal);
  • Myanmar;
  • Thailand;
  • Vietnam.

Their homeland also draws in:

  • Cambodia;
  • China (Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hunan, Jiangxi, Sichuan, Xizang, Yunnan);
  • Laos.

In all cases, the spotted linsang’s bio-geography expresses wide-ranging altitudinal applicability, from 492.13 to 6,561.68 or 13,123.36 feet (150 to 2,000 or 4,000 meters). It falls well outside level lowland terrains where continental Southeast Asia’s politico- and socio-economic development proceeds apace. It flaunts lower shrub layer residency in:

  • Bamboo, degraded secondary-growth, and mixed lowland riverine forests;
  • Dense, tall grasslands;
  • Limestone forests;
  • Pine plantations and scrublands at 4,593.18 feet (1,400 meters);
  • Primary broadleaf hill and mountain forests;
  • Sal (Shorea robusta) forests.

 

śāl (Shorea robusta), also known as shala tree

Jayanti in Buxa Tiger Reserve in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal, India.
Jayanti in Buxa Tiger Reserve in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal, India.

Conclusion: Elusive, belly-crawling, spotted predators easily unspotted by humans

 

The spotted linsang’s current binomial (“two-name”) designation continues the genus established in 1822 by Thomas Horsfield (May 12, 1773 – July 24, 1859), as:

  • Bethlehem-born Pennsylvanian doctor researching poison ivy;
  • Collector and surgeon in Java and Sumatra, 1790 – 1819;
  • London’s East India Company Museum keeper and curator, 1819-.

The species pardicolor divides into the:

  • Nominate P.p. pardicolor in 1841/1842 per Cheshire-born British civil servant and Himalayan zoologist Brian Houghton Hodgson (February 1, 1801? – May 23, 1894);
  • The Vietnam-based subspecies P.p. presina in 1925 per Millbrook-born Natural History Museum mammalogist Michael Rogers Oldfield Thomas (February 21, 1858 – June 16, 1929).

Despite protected areas and notwithstanding agro-industrialism, globally-warmed climate change, and over-hunting, both subspecies remain mysterious to science and wildlife-lovers.

 

Michael Rogers Oldfield Thomas: brilliant zoologist lent his genius to Prionodon genus and identified Vietnam-based subspecies Prionodon pardicolor presina in 1925 ~

portrait bequeathed by Oldfield Thomas to London's Natural History Museum
oil on canvas by John Ernest Breun (1862-1921)
oil on canvas by John Ernest Breun (1862-1921)

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

 

Brian Houghton Hodgson, pioneer ethnologist and naturalist described Prionodon pardicolor pardicolor in 1842:

oil on canvas (exhibited 1872) by Louisa Starr-Canziani (1845 - 1909)
National Portrait Gallery, London: NPG 1707
National Portrait Gallery, London: NPG 1707

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Faunal synecology: Spotted linsangs and red pandas (Ailurus fulgens) are Himalayan natives:

both are found in Jigme Dorji National Park, protected area in northern Bhutan.
Red Panda amongst the gingko trees
Red Panda amongst the gingko trees
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

topography of Spotted Linsang homelands in Myanmar ~ Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park, northwestern Burma: photo by Mark Carwardine

10x14 Photo Puzzle with 252 pieces. Packed in black cardboard box 5 5/8 x 7 5/8 x 1 1/5. Puzzle image 5x7 affixed to box top.
Photo Jigsaw Puzzle - Ardea Wildlife Pets

Li River and Limestone Mountains and River,Yangshou, Guangxi Province, China: photo by Steve Vidler

Li River and Limestone Mountains and River,Yangshou, Guangxi Province, China

Limestone Karst Formations in Stone Forest, Shi Lin, Yunnan, China: photo by Richard I'Anson

topography of Spotted Linsang homelands, southwestern China
Limestone Karst Formations in Stone Forest, Shi Lin, Yunnan, China

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 08/20/2014, DerdriuMarriner
 
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