Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Taxon of the Day: Felis sylvestris grampia

Felis sylvestris grampia

To honour a very special week for one Scottish top cat, Taxon of the Day pays tribute to the Scottish Wildcat. Felis sylvestris grampia Miller, 1907 is a small cat (although 50% larger than the average domesticated cat) found now only in North East Scotland. There have been desperate calls in recent years to protect it from imminent extinction. Where once more widespread, hybridisation with domesticated cats has been cited as one of the reasons for its decline, with numbers thought to be as low as 35. However, recent DNA research on hybridisation is throwing new light on the situation and helping to design the most appropriate course of conservation action. Correct identification (using a pure wildcat genetic model for comparison) enables trapping followed by relocation to protected areas.

In modern biodiversity research there is a growing need to incorporate DNA data. Therefore the correct species identification of a specimen and precise labelling of DNA samples/sequences is essential. Through the i4Life project the Catalogue of Life cooperates with one of the biggest DNA databases worldwide - ENA at EMBL-EBI to enable easier and more accurate taxon based searches through their sequence database.

In the Catalogue of Life Felis sylvestris is one of seven species in the genus Felis which also includes Felis catus the domesticated cat. It is thought that the cat was domesticated from the African Wildcat about 10,000 years ago. 

Much more information on this species is available on the Scottish Wildcat Association website.

CoL Annual Checklist: Felis silvestris grampia
CoL contributor: ITIS Global
Image copyright: Peter Trimming

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