Some species face greater anthropogenic threats than others, and have increased need for scarce conservation resources. Yet how resources are allocated for conservation remains little known. I examined the distribution of research effort, an index of resource allocation, across Felidae (the cat family), a diverse, widely-distributed, and threatened taxon. I performed complete searches of the published literature for all cat species from 1986 to 2007, collecting a total of 2,462 papers, of which 926 represented in situ studies. Threat status, as ranked by a World Conservation Union report in 1996, was significantly correlated with geographical range size, with narrowly distributed species tending to be more at risk. Unlike in many other taxa, threat status was not correlated with body size. The number of total and in situ publications ("research effort") per species was significantly and positively related to body size, but not to threat status or geographical range size. Research effort, rather than being distributed according to actual threat status, is highly skewed towards large species. However, the ratio of the number of studies on the 10 smallest cat species to the number on the 10 largest species has increased significantly since 1986. Yet many species remain severely understudied; I identify 14 cat species that are threatened and have < 10 in situ publications each. These species critically require a greater share of the conservation research effort.
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