The Melanistic Pampas Cats from Mirador State Park

We have been obtaining several records of melanistic Pampas cats (Leopardus colocola) at Mirador State Park, in the Cerrado biome of Maranhão State, Northeast Brazil. Local people refer to them as the "gato preto" which translates to black cat. 

Melanism has been recorded on 13 of the 41 species of felids, including Geoffroy's Cat (Leopardus geoffroyi), Margay (Leopardus wieddii), and Northern Tiger Cats (Leopardus tigrinus), among others. 

Although melanistic forms are usually associated with dense habitats (such as closed canopy forests), these Pampas cats are living in the savannas of the Cerrado. Why is the frequency of melanistic individuals so high here? Are there any ecological advantages of having a black coloration? These are some of the questions that we hope to answer with more research in the park.