|An African wildcat at Parc des Félins|
|Distribution of the African wildcat in 2015|
The African wildcat (Felis lybica) is a wildcat species native to Africa, West and Central Asia up to Rajasthan in India and Xinjiang in China.The IUCN Red List status Least Concern is attributed to the species Felis silvestris , which at the time of assessment also included the African wildcat as a subspecies.
In Cyprus, an African wildcat was found in a burial site next to a human skeleton in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B settlement Shillourokambos. The graves are estimated to have been established by Neolithic farmers about 9,500 years ago, and are the earliest known evidence for a close association between a cat and a human. Their proximity indicates that the cat may have been tamed or domesticated.Results of genetic research indicate that the African wildcat genetically diverged into three clades about 173,000 years ago, namely the Near Eastern wildcat, Southern African wildcat and Asiatic wildcat. African wildcats were first domesticated about 10,000 years ago in the Near East, and are the ancestors of the domestic cat (F. catus). Crossings between domestic cats and African wildcats are still common today.
Felis lybica was the scientific name proposed in 1780 by Georg Forster who based his description on a specimen from Gafsa on the Barbary Coast that had the size of a domestic cat, but a reddish fur, short black tufts on the ears, and a ringed tail.Between the late 18th and 20th centuries, several naturalists and curators of natural history museums described and proposed new names for wildcat holotypes from Africa and the Near East, including:
Since 2017, three African wildcat subspecies are recognised as valid taxa:
Phylogenetic analysis of the nuclear DNA in tissue samples from all Felidae species revealed that the evolutionary radiation of the Felidae began in Asia in the Miocene around. Analysis of mitochondrial DNA of all Felidae species indicates a radiation at around .
The African wildcat is part of an evolutionary lineage that is estimated to have genetically diverged from the common ancestor of the Felis species around, based on analysis of their nuclear DNA. Analysis of their mitochondrial DNA indicates a genetic divergence from Felis at around . Both models agree in the jungle cat (F. chaus) having been the first Felis species that diverged, followed by the black-footed cat (F. nigripes), the sand cat (F. margarita) and then the African wildcat.
Based on a mitochondrial DNA study of 979 domestic and wildcats from Europe, Asia, and Africa, the African wildcat is thought to have split off from the European wildcat about 173,000 years ago, with the North African/Near Eastern wildcat splitting from the Asiatic wildcat and the Southern African wildcat about 131,000 years ago. About 10,000 years ago, some African wildcats were tamed in the Fertile Crescent and are the ancestors of the domestic cat. Domestic cats are derived from at least five "Mitochondrial Eves".African wildcats were also domesticated in ancient Egypt. The Egyptian domestic cat lineage started spreading in the Mediterranean Basin from the 8th century BCE onwards and arrived on the Baltic Sea coast by the 5th century CE.
The fur of the African wildcat is light sandy grey, and sometimes with a pale yellow or reddish hue, but almost whitish on the belly and on the throat. The ears have small tufts, are reddish to grey, with long light yellow hairs around the pinna. The stripes around the face are dark ochre to black: two run horizontally on the cheek from the outer corner of the eye to the jaw, a smaller one from the inner corner of the eye to the rhinarium, and four to six across the throat. Two dark rings encircle the forelegs, and hind legs are striped. A dark stripe runs along the back, the flanks are lighter. Pale vertical stripes on the sides often dissolve into spots. Its tail has two to three rings towards the end with a black tip. Its feet are dark brown to black below.
It differs from the European wildcat by inconspicuous stripes on the nape and shoulders, a less sharply defined stripe across the spine and by the slender tail, which is cylindrical, less bushy and more tapering. Ears are normally tipped with a small tuft. Its fur is shorter than of the European wildcat, and it is considerably smaller.
Skins of male wildcats from Northern Africa measure 47–59.7 cm (18.5–23.5 in) in head-to-body length with a 26.7–36.8 cm (10.5–14.5 in) long tail. Skins of female wildcats measure 40.6–55.8 cm (16.0–22.0 in) with a 24.1–33.7 cm (9.5–13.3 in) long tail. Male wildcats from Yemen measure 46–57 cm (18–22 in) in head-to-body length with a 25–32 cm (9.8–12.6 in) long tail; females were slightly smaller measuring 50–51 cm (20–20 in) in head-to-body length with a 25–28 cm (9.8–11.0 in) long tail. Both females and males range in weight from 3.2–4.5 kg (7.1–9.9 lb).
The African wildcat occurs across Africa, around the periphery of the Arabian Peninsula, and in the Middle East as far eastward as the Caspian Sea.It inhabits a broad variety of habitats, especially in hilly and mountainous landscapes such as the Hoggar Mountains. In deserts such as the Sahara, it occurs at much lower densities. It ranges across the area north of the Sahara from Morocco to Egypt and inhabits the tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands south of the Sahara from Mauritania to the Horn of Africa, including Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Sudan. Farther south, it is present in all East and Southern African countries.
The wild cat in Sardinia and Corsica was long considered a subspecies of the African wildcat with the scientific name Felis lybica sarda.Results of zooarchaeological research indicate that it descended from domestic cats probably introduced at the beginning of the 1st millennium from the Near East. These populations are feral today.
The wildcat on the island of Sicily is a European wildcat.
African wildcats are active mainly by night and search for prey. Their hearing is so fine that they can locate prey precisely. They approach prey by patiently crawling forward and using vegetation to hide. They rarely drink water.They hunt primarily mice, rats, birds, reptiles, and insects.
When confronted, the African wildcat raises its hair to make itself seem larger in order to intimidate its opponent. In the daytime it usually hides in the bushes, although it is sometimes active on dark cloudy days. The territory of a male overlaps with that of up to three females.
In West Africa, the African wildcat preys on rats, mice, gerbils, hares, small to medium-sized birds, including francolins, and lizards. In Southern Africa, it also attacks antelope fawns and domestic stock, such as lambs and kids.
In Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, it preys foremost on murids, to a lesser extent also on birds, small reptiles and invertebrates.
The female's gestation period lasts between 56 and 60 days.In Botswana, she gives birth mostly during the warm wet season to one to three kittens. Litters of up to five kittens were also observed. Her birthing den is a sheltered place like dense grass, a burrow or hollow tree. The kittens open their eyes after about 10–14 days and are mobile at the age of one month. At around three months of age, they start learning hunting techniques from their mother. They leave the family and become independent at the age of around six months.
The African wildcat is included in CITES Appendix II.
Alley Cat Rescue is currently the only organization known to have a program specifically aimed at conserving African wildcats and reducing what some refer to as genetic pollution by domestic cats.
It has been discovered that a domestic cat can serve as a surrogate mother for wildcat embryos. The numerous similarities between the two species mean that an embryo of an African wildcat may be carried and borne by a domestic cat. A documentary by the BBC describes the details of the experiments that led to this discovery, and also shows a mature wildcat that was born by a surrogate female.
The Libyan Posts issued a postage stamp dedicated to Felis lybica in November 1997 in cooperation with World Wide Fund for Nature. This issue was also released as a set of four stamps printed on a minisheet.
Felis is a genus of small and medium-sized cat species native to most of Africa and south of 60° latitude in Europe and Asia to Indochina. The genus includes the domestic cat. The smallest Felis species is the black-footed cat with a head and body length from 38 to 42 cm. The largest is the jungle cat with a head and body length from 62 to 76 cm.
The wildcat is a species complex comprising two small wild cat species, the European wildcat and the African wildcat. The European wildcat inhabits forests in Europe and the Caucasus, while the African wildcat inhabits semi-arid landscapes and steppes in Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia, into western India and western China. The wildcat species differ in fur pattern, tail, and size: the European wildcat has long fur and a bushy tail with a rounded tip; the smaller African wildcat is more faintly striped, has short sandy-gray fur and a tapering tail; the Asiatic wildcat is spotted.
The sand cat, also known as the sand dune cat, is a small wild cat living in sandy and stony deserts far from water sources. With its sandy to light grey fur, it is well camouflaged in a desert environment. Its head-and-body length ranges from 39–52 cm (15–20 in) with a 23–31 cm (9.1–12.2 in) long tail. Its 5–7 cm (2.0–2.8 in) long ears are set low on the sides of the head, aiding detection of prey moving underground. The long hair covering the soles of its feet insulate its foot pads against the extremely hot and cold temperatures in deserts.
The jungle cat, also called reed cat and swamp cat, is a medium-sized cat native to the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia and southern China. It inhabits foremost wetlands like swamps, littoral and riparian areas with dense vegetation. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, and is mainly threatened by destruction of wetlands, trapping and poisoning.
The black-footed cat, also called the small-spotted cat, is the smallest wild cat in Africa, having a head-and-body length of 35–52 cm (14–20 in). Despite its name, only the soles of its feet are black or dark brown. With its bold small spots and stripes on the tawny fur, it is well camouflaged, especially on moonlit nights. It bears black streaks running from the corners of the eyes along the cheeks, and its banded tail has a black tip.
The African golden cat is a wild cat endemic to the rainforests of West and Central Africa. It is threatened due to deforestation and bushmeat hunting and listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. It is a close relative of both the caracal and the serval. Previously, it was placed in the genus Profelis. Its body size ranges from 61 to 101 cm with a 16 to 46 cm long tail.
The leopard cat is a small wild cat native to continental South, Southeast, and East Asia. Since 2002 it has been listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List as it is widely distributed although threatened by habitat loss and hunting in parts of its range.
A feral cat is an un-owned domestic cat that lives outdoors and avoids human contact: it does not allow itself to be handled or touched, and usually remains hidden from humans. Feral cats may breed over dozens of generations and become an aggressive apex predator in urban, savannah and bushland environments. Some feral cats may become more comfortable with people who regularly feed them, but even with long-term attempts at socialization, they usually remain aloof and are most active after dusk.
Prionailurus is a genus of spotted, small wild cats native to Asia. Forests are their preferred habitat; they feed on small mammals, reptiles and birds, and occasionally aquatic wildlife.
A felid hybrid is any of a number of hybrid between various species of the cat family, Felidae. This article deals with hybrids between the species of the subfamily Felinae.
The Cretan wildcat is a member of the genus Felis that inhabits the Greek island of Crete. Its taxonomic status is unclear at present, as some biologists consider it probably introduced, or a European wildcat, or a hybrid between European wildcat and domestic cat . Felis silvestris cretensis was proposed as scientific name for the Cretan wildcat in 1953 by Theodor Haltenorth. He described two cat skins that were purchased in a bazaar in Chania and resembled a skin of an African wildcat, but with a bushy tail like a European wildcat. In the 1980s, Colin Groves measured and assessed zoological specimens of cats that originated in the Mediterranean islands. He concluded that the two cat skins from Crete differed from true wildcat specimens and therefore considered them feral cats.
The European wildcat is a wildcat species native to continental Europe, Scotland, Turkey and the Caucasus. It inhabits forests from the Iberian Peninsula, Italy, Central and Eastern Europe to the Caucasus. It has been extirpated in England and Wales.
The Asiatic wildcat is an African wildcat subspecies that occurs from the eastern Caspian Sea north to Kazakhstan, into western India, western China and southern Mongolia. It is also known as the Asian steppe wildcat and Indian desert cat. The status Least Concern in the IUCN Red List is attributed to the wildcat species complex. There is no information on current status or population numbers for the Asiatic wildcat's entire range, but populations are thought to be declining.
The Corsican wildcat used to be considered a subspecies of the African wildcat, but is now regarded to have been introduced to Corsica around the beginning of the 1st millennium.
The Caucasian wildcat is a European wildcat subspecies that inhabits the Caucasus Mountains and Turkey.
Felis lunensis is an extinct felid of the subfamily Felinae.
The Scottish wildcat is a European wildcat population in Scotland. This population is estimated to comprise between 1,000 and 4,000 individuals, of which about 400 cats are thought to meet the morphological and genetic criteria of a wildcat. The Scottish wildcat population used to be widely distributed across Britain, but has declined drastically since the turn of the 20th century due to habitat loss and persecution. It is now limited to north and east Scotland. It is listed as Critically Endangered in the United Kingdom and is primarily threatened by hybridization with domestic cats. Camera-trapping surveys carried out in the Scottish Highlands between 2010 and 2013 revealed that wildcats live foremost in mixed woodland, whereas feral and domestic cats were photographed mostly in grasslands.
The Southern African wildcat is an African wildcat subspecies native to Southern and Eastern Africa. In 2007, it was tentatively recognised as a distinct subspecies on the basis of genetic analysis. Morphological evidence indicates that the split between the African wildcat subspecies in Africa occurred in the area of Tanzania and Mozambique.
The Arabian wildcat, also called Gordon's wildcat is a wildcat subspecies that inhabits the Arabian Peninsula. It was first described in 1968 by British zoologist David Harrison who named it Felis silvestris gordoni in honour of Major A.C. Gordon who collected the type specimen in Oman.
The family Felidae, to which all living feline species belong, arose about ten to eleven million years ago. This family is divided into eight major phylogenetic lineages. The domestic cat is a member of the Felis lineage. A number of investigations have shown that all domestic varieties of cats come from a single species of the Felis lineage, Felis catus. Variations of this lineage are found all over the world and up until recently scientists have had a hard time pinning down exactly which region gave rise to modern domestic cat breeds. Scientists believed that it was not just one incident that led to the domesticated cat but multiple, independent incidents at different places that lead to these breeds. More complications arose from the fact that the wildcat population as a whole is very widespread and very similar to one another. These variations of wild cat can and will interbreed freely with one another when in close contact further blurring the lines between taxa. Recent DNA studies, advancement in genetic technologies, and a better understanding of DNA and genetics as a whole has helped make discoveries in the evolutionary history of the domestic cat.
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