The facial ruff in lynxes as an alternative form of facial flag

The facial ruff, which occurs in two genera and five species of felids, is hard to interpret adaptively.

The facial ruff seems superfluous to camouflage, and risks being conspicuous to prey during stalking. It seems to be a social or sexual adornment, but is unlike the lion's mane because it is present in females as well as males.

The range of forms of the facial ruff within the genus Lynx can be seen in

Besides lynxes, the facial ruff occurs only in the tiger, and is best-developed in the smallest, Sumatran, subspecies (see

A key to understanding the facial ruff could be as follows:

  • in several other species of felids, there is a subtle facial flag consisting of whitish upper lips, lower lips, chin and throat,
  • this pale region breaks the camouflage pattern enough to gleam conspicuously when the head is held high, and
  • at the same time this pale region, associated with the mouth, can be hidden by lowering the head, while the eyes maintain a clear view.

What all the felids possessing the facial ruff have in common is that the mouth is as camouflaged as the body, with dark spots/stripes on the upper and lower lips. One of the subtle peculiarities of lynxes is that the lips are camouflaged (see

The conspicuous region has been transferred to the facial ruff instead. (The Eurasian lynx is something of an 'exception which proves the rule' because its facial ruff is proportionately small, and sure enough its whitish chin is free of spots/stripes:

On this basis I hypothesise that at least one of the functions of the facial ruff is to act as a facial flag for social purposes.

The following show how conspicuously pale the mouth region of the European wild cat (Felis silvestris) can look: and

The following show the same effect for the jungle cat (Felis chaus): and and and and

The following shows - for particular comparison with the tiger - a similar effect in the lion:

The following photos are arranged by species, sex and ontogenetic stage of development. They show that lynxes and the tiger conform approximately to a pattern in which the mouth region is inconspicuous (being spotted/striped) but the facial ruff is relatively conspicuous. This is mainly because the facial ruff is pale, but also because it is accentuated with dark markings.

Lynx canadensis adult and and and

Lynx canadensis 9 months old

Lynx lynx adult and and and and

Lynx pardinus adult male

Lynx pardinus adult female

Lynx pardinus adult and and and

Lynx rufus and and and and

Panthera tigris sondaica adult female and male together

Panthera tigris sondaica adult female and

Panthera tigris sondaica adult male and and and

Panthera tigris sondaica and and and and

Lynx canadensis infants and juveniles and and and

Lynx rufus infants and juveniles and

Panthera tigris sondaica infants and

Posted on August 09, 2021 12:35 AM by milewski milewski


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