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Spatio-temporal sharing between the European wildcat, the domestic cat and their hybrids


  • Editor: Andrew Kitchener

Simon Benhamou, CEFE-CNRS, 1919 route de Mende, F-34293 Montpellier cedex 5, France


The European wildcat Felis silvestris silvestris, which can hybridize with the domestic cat Felis catus to produce fertile hybrids, is threatened by hybridization. To identify the behavioural processes that can affect interbreeding, we investigated the spatio-temporal sharing between wildcats, domestic cats and their hybrids (defined on their genotypes) in a rural area of north-eastern France where hybridization is frequent. Wildcats' and hybrids' home ranges were larger than those of domestic cats, and they did not vary according to body mass, season and reproductive period. The three types of cats had similar daily activity rhythms but the concordance between their space use patterns was low or null. Thus, a high spatio-temporal concordance is not a prerequisite for hybridization. Rare excursions made by the cats outside of their home ranges may be at the origin of interbreeding. Moreover, hybrids may play a key role in hybridization by behaving as wildcats and by sharing at least a part of their range with them as well as with domestic cats. Behavioural barriers between them and wildcats may not exist because of their similarity in morphology and spatial behaviour.