Your morning adorable: Caracal kitten explores at the Berlin Zoo

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The Berlin Zoo has welcomed a number of animal babies this year, including an anteater, black panthers, an Asian elephant and jaguars. Add Lilly here to that tally; she’s one of three caracal kittens born at the zoo July 17.

Caracals are native to Africa and parts of the Middle East and India, and because they favor dry places such as the savanna, they’re also sometimes called ‘desert lynxes.’ (They rather resemble lynxes, but they’re probably actually more closely related to servals.) They’re renowned for their impressive jumping ability and are able to leap 10 feet to catch a bird midflight.

Beyond their jumping ability, a more obvious characteristic of the caracal is its large ears, complete with long, black tufts at the end. (Lilly’s tufts are just beginning to grow, but they’ll be much larger when she reaches adulthood.) In fact, the word ‘caracal’ comes from a Turkish word, karakulak, which means black ear. Researchers are unsure about the purpose for these tassels, but theories abound. One suggests that they act as a camouflaging device in tall grass; another holds that they act as antennae to help caracals hear; and still another (the most widely accepted explanation, according to the San Diego Zoo) suggests that they are used to help caracals communicate.

More photos of Lilly after the jump!

-- Lindsay Barnett