Mountain lions that have had to relocate into steep terrain have learned to adapt their behavior to save energy in their new habitat. An international team of researchers has discovered how these wild cats slow down when climbing and descending, and also when crossing steep slopes. They put mountain lions on treadmills as part of their research.
Due to the effects of habitat loss from climate change, more animals are forced to expand their range. They can face challenges as they move into these new environments.
Mountain lions — also known as pumas or cougars — have faced habitat loss due to human development for agricultural and residential purposes, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The cats are also threatened by hunting, fires, road collisions, and disease.
As their habitat dwindles and threats increase, mountain lions seek new habitat, often heading to higher ground. But the steep terrain is novel and can be difficult to navigate. Researchers have found that the cats learn to adapt. This not only conserves energy, but it helps the population survive.
“Mountain lions are widespread throughout the Americas and some live in steep mountainous habitats, so we wanted to investigate how the cats are impacted by these steep terrains in their day-to-day activities,” lead author Carolyn Dunford, researcher from The School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, told Treehugger.
The research was conducted by a team from Queen’s University Belfast, the Santa Cruz Puma Project and Integrative Carnivore EcoPhysiology lab from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Foothills Wildlife Research Facility in California.
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