New Species Of Wild Cat Discovered! They Reveal Unknown Natural World

  • Nov, 27, 2013, 06:40 PM

A new species of wildcat has been identified in Brazil by using molecular markers, researchers claim.

Oncillas are housecat-size animals found throughout much of South America, and are known as tigrinas. But not all oncillas are the same: the housecat-sized feline is a type of tigrina. That is what the new research suggests:  the little tiger cats in northeastern Brazil belong to a different species from those elsewhere on the continent, although they look virtually identical.

These two populations of tigrina in Brazil do not interbreed and are evolutionarily distinct, said study co-author Eduardo Eizirik, a researcher at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.

The findings published in the journal Current Biology reveal that Eizirik and team have given the species in the south a new name, Leopardus guttulus, while the species in the northeast shall be known as Leopardus tigrina.

The authors, using molecular markers found that in the distant past, the northeastern species actively interbred, or hybridized, with an entirely different species known as the Pampas cat. This interbreeding may have helped the two oncilla species diverge, Eizirik said.

The study "illustrates how much is still unknown about the natural world, even in groups that are supposed to be well-characterized, such as cats," said Eizirik. "In fact, there are many basic aspects that we still don't know about wild cats, from their precise geographic distribution and their diets to even species-level delimitation, as in this case."

Since these new species are very rare, "Our study highlights the need for urgent attention focused on the Brazilian northeastern tigrinas, which are virtually unknown with respect to most aspects of their biology," Eizirik added.

Both the species of little tiger cats live in rainforests and savannahs. They possess yellowish-ochre fur with a black rosettelike pattern. Though the cats generally live on the ground, they are active tree climbers. They feed on birds and small mammals like rodents.

Source: IBT News



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