Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pawprint evidence

Really interesting news today, an announcement on a study of what is apparently the only carnivore known for a fact to have distinct "fingerprints" that can be used to identify individuals. (Although it is suspected that many other species do also, it hasn't been studied very well yet).

This honor goes to the fisher, a mustelid (close relative to weasels) that typically inhabits coniferous forests and ranges from the Sierra Nevada of California to the Appalachians of West Virginia and Virginia.

What is especially fascinating about this story is that the identifying patterns on the fisher's toe prints are made of dots, not the swirly lines that form human fingerprints.

This seems like it should really be studied in more carnivores, because they are notoriously hard to track/observe in the wild. This would be a great way to keep track of activity patterns of individuals without having to stress both animals and humans with contact, and I would think it would allow more accurate population estimates from tracking, so that a given individual won't be counted repeated times. Cool stuff!


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