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New species of wildcat found in Brazil


Scientists in Brazil discover a new species of wildcat after looking into the evolutionary histories of three other similar species.


Sebastien Bozon

Researchers in Brazil have discovered a new species of wildcat within the DNA of the tigrina.

The findings were made after scientists analyzed the DNA of several different wildcats in Brazil's forests and savannahs.

They looked at cats from several regions of the country: the pampas cat, in the north of the country, Geoffroy's cat, from the south, and two types of tigrinas from the north and south.

Scientists quickly realized that the tigrina populations did not interbreed and were evolutionarily distinct.

"We used several different types of molecular markers to investigate the evolutionary history of these species," said Eduardo Eizirik, a researcher at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul.

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"These [molecular markers] evolve at different rates, which helps in the sense that they provide information on different time frames."

The two tigrina populations were found to be two different species, with one living in the dense rainforests and the other living on Brazil's savannahs to the south.

The northern species would continue to be classified as Leopardus tigrinus.

The more common southern species would be renamed Leopardus guttulus.

Eizirik and his team were originally looking to understand the evolutionary history of the three species until they accidentally discovered the fourth.

The results were published in the journal Current Biology.