How the leopard got his spots

October 28, 2010

Mathematical modelling of the development of patterns has been used by researchers to investigate the evolutionary reasons for the markings on big cats. Scientists at the University of Bristol looked at 35 feline species to understand what has driven variation. They found that cats living in dense vegetation and active at low light levels were the most likely to be patterned, especially with complex markings. However, there are anomalies: for example, cheetahs have spotted patterns despite their preference for open habitats.

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