Size Matters: Zoo Data Analysis Shows that the White Blood Cell Ratio Differs between Large and Small Felids
Department of Behaviour and Behavioral Ecology, A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, Leninsky Prospect 33, 119071 Moscow, Russia
Veterinary Department, Moscow Zoo, Bolshaya Gruzinskya Str. 1, 123242 Moscow, Russia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 7 May 2020
Revised: 22 May 2020
Accepted: 25 May 2020
Published: 29 May 2020
The white blood cells (WBCs) are some of the components of vertebrates’ immune systems. In some orders of mammals, the body mass of the animal correlates positively with the number of WBCs at the interspecific level. However, the different types of WBC play different roles in mammalian immunity, and we suggested that their number may vary between species as well. We estimated the number and ratio values of WBC types in 26 felid species and compared them with their body masses. We found that large cats had more neutrophils and monocytes and fewer lymphocytes than smaller ones. These differences may be explained by their diets. Large cats evolved as the hunters of medium and large-sized ungulates. They utilize the kills for long time intervals (days), resulting in the growth of fungi, protozoa and bacteria in the kills. That may explain the high number of neutrophils and monocytes in large cats to prevent infection by these organisms. The roles of different hunting styles, such as different times of kill utilization and the potential for a greater neutrophils/lymphocytes ratio in larger felids needs further investigation. This comparative study is helpful for zoo and wildlife veterinarians by allowing them to apply these results to endangered and poorly studied felid species.