The snow leopard (Panthera uncia), also known as the ounce, is a felid in the genus Panthera native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because the global population is estimated to number fewer than 10,000 mature individuals and is expected to decline about 10% by 2040. It is threatened by poaching and habitat destruction following infrastructural developments. It inhabits alpine and subalpine zones at elevations from 3,000 to 4,500 m (9,800 to 14,800 ft), ranging from eastern Afghanistan, the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau, to southern Siberia, Mongolia and western China. In the northern part of its range, it also lives at lower elevations.
The snow leopard’s fur is whitish to grey with black spots on head and neck, with larger rosettes on the back, flanks and bushy tail. The belly is whitish. Its eyes are pale green or grey in color. Its muzzle is short and its forehead domed. Its nasal cavities are large. The fur is thick with hairs between 5 and 12 cm (2.0 and 4.7 in) long. Its body is stocky, short-legged, and slightly smaller than the other cats of the genus Panthera, reaching a shoulder height of 56 cm (22 in), and ranging in head to body size from 75 to 150 cm (30 to 59 in). Its tail is 80 to 105 cm (31 to 41 in) long. It weighs between 22 and 55 kg (49 and 121 lb), with an occasional large male reaching 75 kg (165 lb), and small female of under 25 kg (55 lb). Its canine teeth are 28.6 mm (1.13 in) long and are more slender than those of the other Panthera species. In relation to the length of its skull and width of its palate, it has large nasal openings, which allow for increasing the volume of air inhaled with each breath, and at the same time for warming and humidifying cold dry air. It is not especially adapted to high-altitude hypoxia.
The snow leopard shows several adaptations for living in a cold, mountainous environment. Its small rounded ears help to minimize heat loss. Its broad paws well distribute the body weight for walking on snow, and have fur on their undersides to increase the grip on steep and unstable surfaces; it also helps to minimize heat loss. Its long and flexible tail helps to maintain balance in the rocky terrain. The tail is also very thick due to fat storage, and is covered in a thick layer of fur, which allows the cat to use it like a blanket to protect its face when asleep.
The snow leopard differs from the other Panthera species by a shorter muzzle, an elevated forehead, a vertical chin and a less developed posterior process of the lower jaw. It cannot roar despite its partly ossified hyoid bone, as its 9 mm (0.35 in) short vocal folds provide little resistance to airflow.
(From Wikipedia, June 2021)