Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Domestic cat introgression in wildcat in Iberia

Oliveira, R., Godinho, R., Randi, E., Ferrand, N., & Alves, P. C. (2008). Molecular analysis of hybridisation between wild and domestic cats (Felis silvestris) in Portugal: implications for conservation. Conservation Genetics9(1): 1-11.

The endangered European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) is represented, today, by fragmented and declining populations whose genetic integrity is considered to be seriously threatened by crossbreeding with widespread free-ranging domestic cats. Extensive and recent hybridisation has been described in Hungary and Scotland, in contrast with rare introgression of domestic alleles in Italy and Germany. In Portugal, the wildcat is now listed as VULNERABLE in the Red Book of Portuguese Vertebrates. Nevertheless, genetic diversity of populations and the eventual interbreeding with domestic cats remain poorly studied. We surveyed genetic variation at 12 autosomal microsatellites for 34 wild and 64 domestic cats collected across Portugal. Wild and domestic cats were significantly differentiated both at allele frequencies and sizes (F ST=0.11, R ST = 0.18, P < 0.001). Population structure and admixture analyses performed using Bayesian approaches also showed evidence of two discrete groups clustering wild and domestic populations. Results did not show significant genetic divergence among Northern, Central and Southern wildcats. Six morphologically identified wildcats were significantly assigned to the domestic cluster, revealing some discrepancy between phenotypic and genetic identifications. We detected four hybrids (approximately 14%) using a consensus analysis of different Bayesian model-based software. These hybrids were identified throughout all sampled areas, suggesting that hybridisation is of major concern for the appropriate implementation of wildcat conservation strategies in Portugal.

Cross-breeding between wild and free-ranging domestic species is one of the main conservation problems for some threatened species. The situation of wildcats (Felis silvestris silvestris) in Europe is a good example of this critical phenomenon. Extensive hybridization was described in Hungary and Scotland, contrasting with occasional interbreeding in Italy and Germany. First analyses in Portugal revealed a clear genetic differentiation between wild and domestic cats; however, four hybrids were detected. Here, we extended the approach to Iberian Peninsula using multivariate and Bayesian analyses of multilocus genotypes for 44 Portuguese wildcats, 31 Spanish wildcats and 109 domestic cats. Globally, wild and domestic cats were significantly differentiated (F ST=0.20, p<0.001) and clustered into two discrete groups. Diverse clustering methods and assignment criteria identified an additional hybrid in Portugal, performing a total of five admixed individuals. The power of admixture analyses was assessed by simulating hybrid genotypes, which revealed that used microsatellites were able to detect 100, 91 and 85% of first-generation hybrids, second-generation genotypes and backcrosses, respectively. These findings suggest that the true proportion of admixture can be higher than the value estimated in this study and that the improvement of genetic tools for hybrids detection is crucial for wildcat conservation.

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