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J Hered. 2011 Sep-Oct;102 Suppl 1:S87-90. doi: 10.1093/jhered/esr047.

A suite of genetic markers useful in assessing wildcat (Felis silvestris ssp.)-domestic cat (Felis silvestris catus) admixture.

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Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Tubney House, Tubney, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX13 5QL, UK.


The wildcat (Felis silvestris ssp.) is a conservation concern largely due to introgressive hybridization with its congener F. s. catus, the common domestic cat. Because of a recent divergence and entirely overlapping ranges, hybridization is common and pervasive between these taxa threatening the genetic integrity of remaining wildcat populations. Identifying pure wildcats for inclusion in conservation programs using current morphological discriminants is difficult because of gross similarity between them and the domestic, critically hampering conservation efforts. Here, we present a vetted panel of microsatellite loci and mitochondrial polymorphisms informative for each of the 5 naturally evolved wildcat subspecies and the derived domestic cat. We also present reference genotypes for each assignment class. Together, these marker sets and corresponding reference genotypes allow for the development of a genetic rational for defining "units of conservation" within a phylogenetically based taxonomy of the entire F. silvestris species complex. We anticipate this marker panel will allow conservators to assess genetic integrity and quantify admixture in managed wildcat populations and to be a starting point for more in-depth analysis of hybridization.

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