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Pallas's cats found living 'at the top of the world'

Pallas's cats found living 'at the top of the world'
Pallas's cats found living 'at the top of the world'

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Stop what you’re doing and look at this face! For the first time, it was spotted on Mount Everest, according to a new paper appearing in the journal Cat News.

What you’re looking at is called a Pallas’s cat, and the new finding is a big deal. Pallas’s cats are typically found in harsh environments and they are elusive. Because of that, they are an understudied species.

The discovery was led by Dr. Tracie Seimon of the Wildlife Conservation Society and made during a nearly four-week journey, where experts collected several environmental DNA - or eDNA - samples. They had set out to get a better understanding of the diversity of life on the world’s highest mountain, collecting water at locations ranging from about 4,800 metres to 5,800 metres above sea level.

The cats were found at two separate locations near the 1,500 and 1580 metre marks. Researchers also found DNA evidence of pika and mountain weasels,two important food sources for the cats.

“It is phenomenal to discover proof of this rare and remarkable species at the top of the world,” Dr. Seimon said in a statement.

“The nearly four-week journey was extremely rewarding not just for our team but for the larger scientific community. The discovery of Pallas’s cat on Everest illuminates the rich biodiversity of this remote high-alpine ecosystem and extends the known range of this species to eastern Nepal.”

During their study, scientists identified 187 taxonomic orders - about 16 per cent of global taxonomic orders. Keep in mind the landmass surveyed only represents about 3 per cent of the global landmass.

Experts hope the discovery will inspire the public to learn more about the diversity of life on Mount Everest.

Thumbnail image courtesy: Keven Law/Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.0