Have you ever wondered why some small cats have such pointy ears compared to their bigger cousins?
Well here’s a few reasons as to why:
Cat ears being upright and facing forward, have a strong ability to capture sound within 180 degrees in the front, the round ears of big cats form a barrier to the sound behind but pointed ears of small cats have a better ability to capture sound from behind.
What are the advantages of this?
It has mainly to do with their living environment. Big cats, in most parts of their distribution have few natural enemies, however small cats distribution overlaps with big cats and other large predators. Therefore big cats don’t need to concern themselves too much with being attacked from behind but small cats do and this is where the ability to pick up sound from behind becomes an advantage.
Another reason is the difference in prey. Large cats often hunt medium to large herbivores such as deer or even wild boar such as in the the case of the leopard. They are relatively easy to spot and requires these predators to rely on their eyes rather than their ears. Small cats however such as the jungle cat in the image and rusty-spotted cat hunt small prey such as rodents. Such prey is difficult to see in the tall grass, so small cats have to rely largely on their auditory system to ensure a hunt is successful.
Different animals, although part of the same family, often portray morphological differences due to them having niche adaptations to their particular habitat preferences and ecological status. When we look at cats for example, large cats tend to have round ears where as small cats generally have pointed ears.