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Development of SNP markers identifying European wildcats, domestic cats, and their admixed progeny


Correspondence: Beatrice Nussberger, Fax: +41 (0)44 635 68 18; E-mail:


Introgression can be an important evolutionary force but it can also lead to species extinction and as such is a crucial issue for species conservation. However, introgression is difficult to detect, morphologically as well as genetically. Hybridization with domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) is a major concern for the conservation of European wildcats (Felis s. silvestris). The available morphologic and genetic markers for the two Felis subspecies are not sufficient to reliably detect hybrids beyond first generation. Here we present a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) based approach that allows the identification of introgressed individuals. Using high-throughput sequencing of reduced representation libraries we developed a diagnostic marker set containing 48 SNPs (Fst > 0.8) which allows the identification of wildcats, domestic cats, their hybrids and backcrosses. This allows assessing introgression rate in natural wildcat populations and is key for a better understanding of hybridization processes.