The satellite-dish ears of the serval

The two pictures on this page show us the satellite-dish ears of the serval, a lanky, medium-sized wild cat species. The pictures show youngsters and the ears are proportionally larger making them very noticeable.

Young serval enormous ears proportional to body size
Young serval’s enormous ears proportional to body size. Photo: Pinterest and in public domain.
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“The servals long legs [the longest legs in proportion to body size of all the wild cat species] provide its satellite-dish ears with a raised platform from which to scan the vegetation for sounds of prey..”

Satellite-dish ears of the serval. Photo: Pinterest and in public domain.
Satellite-dish ears of the serval. Photo: Pinterest and in public domain.

The serval has much larger ear bullae compared to the caracal. The auditory bulla is the cavity which protects the middle ear. Its size in the serval reflects the cat’s keen sense of hearing upon which the cat relies when hunting.

In the wild servals walk slowly through tall grassland (its preferred habitat). They stop regularly and listen. Sometimes they may stop and sit for fifteen minutes to listen for prey.

Once they hear prey, say a rodent, the animal is accurately located through sound. The serval then carefully stalks its prey and pounces. It leaps into the air and strikes down hard on the animal with its forefeet. This may kill or stun the animal. If the serval misses it will perform a stiff-legged series of jumps. This hunting technique is very characteristic of the serval. The serval is built to be a specialist small mammal catcher in tall grass. About 90% of the serval’s prey weighs less than 200 grams. They’ll occasionally attack young antelope. In Zimbabwe the multimammate mouse (20-80 grams) and vlei rat (100-200 grams) make up the bulk of their diet.

And it all turns on the auditory sensitivity of those wonderful satellite-dish ears.

Quote from Wild Cats Of The World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist as is the phrase ‘satellite-dish ears’.

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