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Taxonomy:

The trispotted puguar (cutus puggus trippulus) is a subspecies of the common pugger (cutus puggus) and belongs to the family cutus. No other relatives to the trispotter puguar are recognized, although taxonomists are arguing that the pugtato (rootus pugsus) has evolved from the pugger.  

Characteristics:

Puguar

Female trispotted puguars can grow to be between 55 – 70 centimeters tall and weigh up to 12 kilograms. Male puguars are smaller than females and do not grow bigger than 45 centimeters and 8 kilograms.  

The trispotted puguar’s bright mustard colored fur serves to hide it in the dry grasses of the savanna below the Atlas Mountains. It is recognized by the row of triangular spots (trispots) ranging from its neck to the tip of the tail. The trispots camouflage the puguar while hunting.

Unlike the pugger, the four claws on the trispotted puguar’s paws are not retractable. In 1853, biologist James Barking found that the function of the non-retractable claws is to maintain a steady grip to the Atlas Mountains valley’s dusty grounds while searching for prey.  

Behavior:

Male trispotted puguars are lonely hunters and only meet other puguars during breeding season in the winter months from December to February. Female puguars can reside together but react aggressively towards any male puguars entering their territorial zone. The females mark the area by dragging their hindquarters around the perimeter of their territory.

All puguars prey on rodents and birds in the evening twilight, but are omnivorous and can feed on leaves when unsuccessful in hunting. Occasionally, they hunt on bigger prey such as antelopes or feed on carrion.

Distribution and Habitat:

Trispotted puguars live in holes that they dig in the ground near a water source, such as mountain lakes and streams. Unlike the pugger, puguars sleep with their heads partially outside their dens.

Dry savannas right below the Atlas Mountains have served as habitat for the trispotted puguar since they were first seen in the 13th century. Recent spotting of trispotted puguars in Mauritania and Mali, however, suggest a migration of the species.

-         Lisa L.