South America Researchers Discover a New Wildcat Species

South America, wIldcat, oncillaAccording to researchers there is a new wild cat that was discovered in South America. Scientists compared the DNA from the two populations of Tigrina in Brazil and reported they do not interbreed. Both populations are evolutionarily distinct as well. Results showed that the two populations have contrast interactions related to Geoffroy’s cat and pampas cat.

In the wild there are seven if not more species of small wild cats in the Leopardus genus. These small cats are primarily found in Central and South America. These are the first colonized small wild cats that settled nearly 3 million years ago. Researchers led by Dr. Eduardo Eizirik collected DNA from pampa and Geoffroy’s cats to determine the evolutionary history of the two species.

As scientists compared the DNA, they found patterns of interbreeding between the species. The research shows that the southern population and the Geoffroy’s population bred in areas where the two came in to contact. There was evidence to prove ancient hybridization between the pampas cat with the north-eastern Tigrina. The Tigrina is one of the smallest and has yellow like fur with open spots. The Geoffroy cat is a bit larger and stockier. It has a grayish coat with solid spots.  The pampas cat sports a shorter tail with stripes instead of spots.

Dr. Eizirik remains puzzled for considering there seems to be no recent mating between the north-eastern and southern Tigrinas. Their research proved that there is still so much unknown about the natural world. This researcher in South America states that there is so much unknown even with well-characterized species such as cats.

This new cat made researchers aware of conservation efforts. Now that scientists know this species exists, they can take precautions to ensure its safety. This new species of wild cat has a larger spots with a darker color. Researchers came to the conclusion that the reason for this different coat is to blend in to their habitat. It was reported that it seems the cats are enabling their own survival.

It is unknown how long this species has been prowling along South America. These wild cats easily stay hidden in the brushing which made the discovery difficult for researchers. If the researchers are able to obtain more information about this newly discovered cat, it will help with the conservation efforts. For the researchers to enforce poaching laws and land preservation, they must recognize the two species as distinct. This will help in allowing the scientists to gather information and protect each species separately.

It won’t be long before poachers obtain the information for this new species and try to go after it. Scientists must work fast if they want to save them. Unfortunately poachers will eventually find ways around the law in order to make their kill. Many poachers are relentless and will stop at nothing to have the “latest fur”. It is difficult to conserve multiple species in completely different areas of a country. Experienced poachers know which way to go when trying to avoid conservationists. This new species will furthermore be known as Oncillas. It is all up to the researchers in South America to protect this newly discovered beautiful wild cat.

By Anjulina MaComber

BBC

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L.A. Times

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