Elusive European Wildcats Found Hiding Out on Mount Etna
by Laura Geggel
A healthy population of European wildcats has been discovered living in the forest surrounding Mount Etna, an active volcano in Sicily, researchers say.
The rare, elusive wildcats typically avoid people, making them difficult to study. By tallying the cat’s numbers across Europe, researchers hope to understand how urgently the animals need outside protections, such as habitat safeguards, said Stefano Anile, the study’s principal investigator and an independent wildlife researcher in Sicily…
(read more: Live Science)
photograph by Stefano Anile

Elusive European Wildcats Found Hiding Out on Mount Etna

by Laura Geggel

A healthy population of European wildcats has been discovered living in the forest surrounding Mount Etna, an active volcano in Sicily, researchers say.

The rare, elusive wildcats typically avoid people, making them difficult to study. By tallying the cat’s numbers across Europe, researchers hope to understand how urgently the animals need outside protections, such as habitat safeguards, said Stefano Anile, the study’s principal investigator and an independent wildlife researcher in Sicily…

(read more: Live Science)

photograph by Stefano Anile

Big Cat Rescue:  Wild Cats vs. Toilet Paper

Do wild species of cats (servals/bobcats/lynx/ocelots) like to destroy toilet paper like their domestic cousins?

BIG CAT TV is a close look into our day-to-day operations, the conservation efforts we support, and the 100+ feline residents of “Big Cat Rescue” in Tampa, FL. USA. Big Cat Rescue is an educational non-breeding sanctuary and a registered non-profit 501c3 so your donations are tax deductible!

Website: http://bigcatrescue.org

* same

The Mysterious Origins of cat Domestication Uncovered in China

by Joseph Bennington-Castro

Researchers studying a 5,000-year-old archaeological site in China have discovered that wildcats first came to ancient villages to feed on rodents, which were stealing farmers’ grains. The research shows, for the first time, how the process of cat domestication started.

Over the years, there have been a number of different thoughts as to how domestication of various animals came about. Some people proposed that early domestication involved a kind of master-subject relationship, where humans guided wild animals to domestication through selective breeding and other techniques. On the opposite end of the spectrum, one theory holds that some domesticates manipulated humans into relationships that benefited the animals, at, possibly, the expense of people.

Species most frequently became domesticated through the commensal pathway, Marshall told io9. Here, animals, including dogs, pigs and chicken, came to human settlements to eat refuse or prey on other animals. At some point, the animals developed closer bonds with humans, which eventually grew into a domestic relationship. Researchers have reasoned that Near Eastern Wildcats (Felis silvestris lybica; below) — which are thought to be the ancestors of all domestic cats — became domesticated through a commensal pathway, after they began visiting human settlements to eat rodents. Surprisingly, however, there has been little archaeological evidence to back up this idea…

(read more: io9)

Top image: zaimoku_woodpile/Flickr; mid images:  Some of the cat specimens unearthed: A. left mandible; B. right humerus; C. left pelvis; D. left tibia. Via PNAS; bttm image: Near Eastern Wildcat via Péter Csonka/Wikimedia Commons.

biomedicalephemera

biomedicalephemera:

Keratin barbs on the tongue and glans of the domestic housecat.

You may have heard that cats have “spiked penises”, which is true, to an extent. The barbs on the glans of the male consist of the same backward-facing keratin barb structures that are present on the tongue, though clearly they’re not used for the same purposes.

While many male mammals have similar spines on their genitals, the purpose of them is not universally known. In felines, however, it’s believed that the barbs raking the inside of the vagina induces ovulation in the queen (female cat). [read more on why cats don’t menstruate but humans do]

It’s less understood why our ape bretheren, who have cyclical ovulation similar to humans, also have keratin spikes on their penises. It may be an evolutionary holdover from a common ancestor with prosimians, who have much more complex penis barbs, and who appear to have similarly triggered ovulation as felines.

Somewhere along the line, the genes that create these keratin spikes were lost in humans, but in some people, the non-barbed keratin (“pearly”) papules around the glans or shaft are a benign throwback to an ancient ancestor. Luckily, even though we have the genes to create the papules (generally not activated), we’ve literally lost the genes that create the spiked barbs on top of them.

[Penile spines at Wikimedia Commons]

P.S. When a cat is neutered, its penis loses its barbs. One of the ways to detect if a stray cat who appears to have been fixed actually has one or more retained testes (where the testicle does not descend into the scrotum) is to check the glans of its penis for barbs.

A portrait of a European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris), a subspecies of the wildcat which inhabits the forests and grasslands of Europe, as well as Turkey and the Caucasus Mountains; this specimen was photographed in Wisentgehege Springe game park, near Springe, Hanover, Germany. The species can be differentiated from the domestic cat by its bulkier body, thick fur, and non-tapered tail.
Photo: Michael Gäbler                                                                  via: Wikipedia

A portrait of a European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris), a subspecies of the wildcat which inhabits the forests and grasslands of Europe, as well as Turkey and the Caucasus Mountains; this specimen was photographed in Wisentgehege Springe game park, near Springe, Hanover, Germany. The species can be differentiated from the domestic cat by its bulkier body, thick fur, and non-tapered tail.

Photo: Michael Gäbler                                                                  via: Wikipedia