One of the world’s smallest felines is at risk of extinction due to inbreeding

Despite the majority feline they are endangered habitat loss and human activityconservation programs dedicated to smaller species are considerably less developed than those aimed at their more “massive” counterparts such as tigers and lions. According to a new study, in fact black-footed cat (Felis nigripes), the smallest African cat, can even be serious danger of extinction due to habitat loss. The results of the study were published on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The black-footed cat belongs to the species of felines the smallest in the world but at the same time she is one of the most experienced in hunting. It is generally smaller than a domestic cat and lives exclusively in the deserts of southern Africa. However, despite his combative temperament, he is currently classified as a “vulnerable” IUCN because it faces increasing threats that are rapidly reducing its population size.

Previous research has actually highlighted the sentience of these felines to amyloidosis, a condition that, in addition to damaging the internal organs, causes inflammation especially in the ears. This can also lead to deafness complete, which prevents them from identifying prey. This pathology is mainly associated with kinshipwhich is why a team of researchers decided to delve deeper into the reproductive history of this species to develop more effective conservation actions.


The researchers took tissue samples 10 individuals and analyzed them genetic compare them with samples collected over many years to detect any differences. Analyzes confirmed that there is a significant incidence in contemporary populations kinshipthe condition that occurs when individuals who are related to each other, significantly increasing the risk of genetic problems in offspring. This phenomenon is mainly caused by the reduction in the size of populations as a result loss of their natural environment. The research team also identified potentially harmful genetic variants closely associated with the onset of amyloidosis, a condition that damages internal organs.

The results obtained are therefore a cause for great concern and fully reflect the delicate situation facing the black-footed cat. This species has suffered habitat loss in Africa due to urbanization, construction street and expanding new ones farms at the expense of your habitat. All these circumstances then led to the inevitable reducing the number of individualswhich contributes to the emergence of significant levels of inbreeding in genetic analyses.

Researchers are therefore deeply concerned about the critical conservation status of the black-footed cat and stress the importance of in-depth study genetic variation of a species. This in-depth analysis is necessary to take measures aimed at optimal protection and conservation of this endangered species, in order to avoid negative mutations and inbreeding that would push this small African cat further and further towards the abyss.

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