Life sometimes leads us into events and occurrences that completely change our perspective of how we look at the world. A similar life-altering encounter was experienced by a researcher in Canada, who came across a never-seen-before Canadian Black Lynx.
The 30-second video recorded by University of Alberta researcher Thomas Jung offers a mesmerizing view of a black lynx sitting and staring squarely in the direction of the cameraman before candidly making its way across the field and out of view.
The science and other stuff to know
Jung recorded the footage on August 29, 2020, in a rural residential area near the town of Whitehorse, Yukon. Mature forests dominate the area, and it has a limited human population. Jung recorded the footage using a cell phone from about 50 meters (164 feet) away, and although the footage appears quite grainy, several experts have validated its authenticity, according to findings reported in the journal Mammalia.
Jung reported that the animal had a “black coat containing whitish gray guard hairs throughout, as well as whitish gray hairs in the facial ruff and the rostrum and dorsal regions”. He said the “coat color in the genus Lynx tended to be stable, with little variation within species compared to that of other” felines, making the sighting all the more interesting.
Variations in coloration within the species have always been of particular interest to researchers and scientists. It offers researchers an invaluable opportunity to study whether the variation is a direct response to the environment or simply an evolutionary effect.
They also offer scientists a chance to study if the coloration is adaptive (useful) or maladaptive (harmful) for the species. In the case of the Canadian lynx, Jung believes the dark cost was, in fact, a disadvantage. Like most predatory felines, Lynxes rely on ambush to catch prey and their coats help them blend in with the environment to avoid detection.
Jung reported that the melanism was certain to cost the lynx in terms of camouflage during winter and was “likely maladaptive”.
Although the pigmentation on the black lynx could be a result of genetic mutation, it is certain to keep researchers’ interest going. On the other hand, if the pigmentation is a natural response to the changing environment and habitat — as proposed by Alexandre Roulin’s 2014 paper — and we see more and more of such similar sightings, the species could well be in trouble.
With the loss of a camouflaged coat crafted by centuries of evolution, the species could face immense trouble finding food and sustaining itself. As Jung noted, black coloration coupled with climate change-induced shallower snow could render “melanism being maladaptive”.
As regal as the lynx might have looked in black, for the sake of the species’ survival, let’s hope we don’t see any more of that.