Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Preserving genetic integrity in a hybridising world: are European Wildcats (Felis silvestris silvestris) in eastern France distinct from sympatric feral domestic cats?

Abstract

We investigate the genetic profile of putative European Wildcats in north-eastern France, possessing the wildcat phenotype, but sampled in an area where they are sympatric with free-roaming domestic cats and, thus, are exposed to potential hybridisation. From a sample of 209 cats, the programme STRUCTURE clearly identified two distinct genetic clusters that corresponded to European Wildcats and domestic cats. The cats from these two clusters were clearly differentiated from each other (FST=0.16). However, the genotypes of some individual cats were split between the two clusters, indicative of genetic admixture. Our analysis demonstrates that a genetically distinct population of cats that possess the European Wildcat phenotype persists in north-eastern France, but that there is a low, yet real, risk of hybridisation with sympatric domestic cats. These European Wildcats warrant conservation efforts to protect their genetic integrity.