Tuesday, March 6, 2012

African Wildcat

Felis silvestris lybica
Most people understand that dogs were domesticated from Grey Wolves, but the ancestry of the domestic cat isn't as widely known. Enter the African Wildcat, a Wildcat subspecies that is responsible for all of the housecats we have today!

There are several different Wildcats around the world, spanning across Europe, Asia, and Africa. Though they are all genetically similar, and they all look a heck of a lot like domesticated cats, it is one particular African subspecies (F. s. lybica) that ended up being domesticated by Middle Eastern civilizations around 10,000 years ago.

African Wildcats live throughout the African continent, as well as on the Arabian Peninsula and near the Caspian Sea. There are actually over a dozen subspecies on the continent aside from the domestic ancestor. They live in most habitats, including deserts, forests, and savannas.

The African Wildcat is, unsurprisingly, a carnivore. They hunt by pouncing, and go after small mammals, reptiles, birds, and amphibians. Hunting is done primarily at dawn and dusk. The are solitary animals for the most part, except when a  female is raising a litter of kittens.

The entire Wildcat species is listed as being of Least Concern, but they do face some conservation challenges. The most prominent of these is hybridization; many of the African Wildcats interbreed with domestic cats, resulting in very few genetically pure populations.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Africa
Size : Body Length around 30in (76cm), Weight up to 14lbs (6.5kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Carnivora
Family : Felidae -- Genus : Felis -- Species : F. silvestris -- Subspecies : F. s. lybica, others

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