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, 6 September 2015

Lack of hybridization between wild and domestic cats explained by spatial segregation

Gil-Sánchez, J. M., Jaramillo, J., & Barea-Azcón, J. M. (2015). Strong spatial segregation between wildcats and domestic cats may explain low hybridization rates on the Iberian Peninsula. Zoology.

The European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) is an endangered felid impacted by genetic introgression with the domestic cat (Felis silvestris catus). The problem of hybridization has had different effects in different areas. In non-Mediterranean regions pure forms of wildcats became almost extinct, while in Mediterranean regions genetic introgression is a rare phenomenon. The study of the potential factors that prevent the gene flow in areas of lower hybridization may be key to wildcat conservation. We studied the population size and spatial segregation of wildcats and domestic cats in a typical Mediterranean area of ancient sympatry, where no evidence of hybridization had been detected by genetic studies. Camera trapping of wild-living cats and walking surveys of stray cats in villages were used for capture–recapture estimations of abundance and spatial segregation. Results showed (i) a low density of wildcats and no apparent presence of putative hybrids; (ii) a very low abundance of feral cats in spite of the widespread and large population sources of domestic cats inhabiting villages; (iii) strong spatial segregation between wildcats and domestic/feral cats; and (iv) no relationship between the size of the potential population sources and the abundance of feral cats. Hence, domestic cats were limited in their ability to become integrated into the local habitat of wildcats. Ecological barriers (habitat preferences, food limitations, intra-specific and intra-guild competition, predation) may explain the severe divergences of hybridization impact observed at a biogeographic level. This has a direct effect on key conservation strategies for wildcats (i.e., control of domestic cats).

 Read more on domestic wild feline hybridisation with domestic cat

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