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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter October 10, 2022

Paint it black: first record of melanism in Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis)

  • Thomas S. Jung ORCID logo EMAIL logo
From the journal Mammalia


Variation in coat colour within mammal species is of enduring interest, likely because of its potential to be either adaptive or maladaptive. Coat colour in the genus Lynx tends to be stable, with little variation within species compared to that of other felids. Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) have coats that typically are silver grayish in winter and reddish brown in summer with dark spots, and black hairs on the tips of their tails and ears. A rare pallid colourmorph is occasionally observed, suggestive of partial albinism. Here, I report the first record of a melanistic Canada lynx. The individual was photographed during summer in the Yukon (Canada). It had a black coat containing whitish gray guard hairs throughout, as well as whitish gray hairs in the facial ruff and the rostrum and dorsal regions. There are only a small number of records of coat colour polymorphisms in the genus Lynx. The adaptive significance of melanism in lynx is unknown, but the loss of camouflage when hunting during winter is likely maladaptive.

Corresponding author: Thomas S. Jung, Department of Environment, Government of Yukon, 419 Range Road, Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A2C6, Canada; and Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, E-mail:


I am indebted to Heather Kennedy, Jazzmyne Stuckey, and Bruce Bennett for information on this lynx sighting. I also thank Charley Krebs, Stan Boutin, Alice Kenney, Dennis Murray, Mark O’Donoghue, Garth Mowat, and Brian Slough for discussion on coat colour in lynx.

  1. Author contributions: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.

  2. Research funding: None declared.

  3. Conflict of interest statement: The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding this article.

  4. Research ethics: No animals were handled or disturbed during this work.


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Supplementary Material

The online version of this article offers supplementary material (

Received: 2022-02-20
Accepted: 2022-07-26
Published Online: 2022-10-10
Published in Print: 2023-01-27

© 2022 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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