HomeWild Cat SpeciesGeoffroy's catOncilla mates with Geoffroy’s cat and mated with the pampas cat

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Oncilla mates with Geoffroy’s cat and mated with the pampas cat — 4 Comments

  1. However, the tamed wildcat is actually a different subspecies (F S lybica) from the Scottish Wildcat (F s grampia). Left alone, the two would probably have speciated fully.

    • “There is still no clear consensus in how to relate geographical variation in the morphology and genetics of the globally widespread Wildcat Felis silvestris to its taxonomy and systematics (Kitchener and Rees 2009). – Red List.”

      I have a problem with the idea of “non-native species” and human intervention. It can be used as an excuse to eradicate a species. The Australian government’s attitude towards the feral cat is the best example.

  2. The difference in the case of tiger species (Amur/Bengal) is that they don’t meet and hybridise naturally (geographical barriers) so they are moving towards speciation. In the case of oncillas/pampas cats/Geoffroy’s cat the hybridisation occurs without 2 separate (sub)species being put into a cage together with no mate choice.

    With the South American cats they are overlapping species, like a chain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_species). For some reason (habitat loss? population loss?) the link between the two oncilla populations has been broken and they no longer interbreed. With tigers, they have already become distinct and non-overlapping populations. With Kellas cats, the introgression is due to the introduction of a non-native felid – interbreeding would not have occurred without human intervention (the same as with tigers).

    Species is largely a human construct. Nature is more thrifty with genes. Species can both diverge and merge according to environmental conditions (this is seen in action with Galapagos finches – they diverge into specialists when food is abundant, but merge into generalists after major climate events that deplete plant species, then re-diversify when the plants recover). Polar/Grizzly bear hybridisation is another example of 2 geographically overlapping species REcombining as the environment changes (these 2 species came from the same single species).

    The key to whether it matters, is whether the species overlap and interbreed naturally to form fertile hybrid populations, or whether it requires human intervention to make it happen.

    • Thanks Sarah for a great comment. For me, you make subtle points. For example, the Scottish wildcat interbreeding with the domestic cat would not have happened but for human intervention. Agreed of course.

      But humans are a species of animal and the wildcat decided to befriend the human 9,500 years ago. Then the human brought the tamed wildcat to Scotland (2,000 years ago).

      The whole process seems very natural to me and to talk of human intervention seems a little artificial sometimes.

      The evolution of the Scottish wildcat was a natural process arguably and not really about “intervention”.

      Species are a human construct. Cat breeds are even more of a human construct. Taxonomy is constantly in flux and unsettled and the classifications are disputable. This also makes things less black and white and more grey.

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