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Felis silvestris lybica, African Wildcat
Dr. Pamela Owen - The University of Texas at Austin
Felis silvestris lybica
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Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History (LACM 14474)

Image processing: Mr. Kevin Chovanec
Publication Date: 01 Apr 2002

Specimens: male | female


The African wildcat, Felis silvestris lybica, is widely distributed in Africa and extreme southwestern Asia. A solitary nocturnal hunter, the African wildcat preys primarily on rodents, but may feed on other small vertebrates and invertebrates. The African wildcat is very similar in size and appearance to the domestic "tabby" cat (F. s. catus), its direct descendant. Late Pleistocene fossils of the African wildcat have been found in North Africa. Molecular analyses indicate that this cat diverged from the European wildcat (F. s. silvestris) approximately 20,000 years ago.

The skeletons of domestic cats and wildcats are very similar. There is much variation in skull size and shape, and some workers have been able to differentiate African wildcats, European wildcats, and domestic cats via morphometric analysis. However, there is significant overlap among the three taxa as well as with their hybrids.

The African wildcat is listed on CITES Appendix II, but is not legally protected throughout most of its range. African wildcats share the same range as feral domestic cats, with which they hybridize; this is the primary threat to the preservation of their lineage. Captive breeding programs have been established in response to the increase in hybridized populations, but conservationists agree that the most effective plan is to protect African wildcat populations in remote areas from invasion by feral domestic cats.

About the Species

This specimen, an adult female, was collected by C. A. McLaughlin in 1960 from Fada, Repub. Tchad, Africa. It was made available to The University of Texas High-Resolution X-ray CT Facility for scanning courtesy of Drs. Blaire Van Valkenburgh and Jessica Theodor, Department of Organismic Biology, Ecology, and Evolution, University of California, Los Angeles. Funding for scanning was provided by Dr. Van Valkenburgh and by a National Science Foundation Digital Libraries Initiative grant to Dr. Timothy Rowe of The University of Texas at Austin. This taxon is one of several felid carnivorans included in ongoing research of respiratory turbinates by Drs. Van Valkenburgh and Theodor.

About this Specimen

The specimen was scanned by Matthew Colbert on 25 April 2001 along the coronal axis for a total of 366 slices, each slice 0.231 mm thick and with an interslice spacing of 0.231 mm. The dataset displayed was reduced for optimal Web delivery from the original, much higher-resolution CT data.

About the


Crouch, J. E. 1969. Text-atlas of cat anatomy. Lea and Fibiger, Philadelphia. 399 pp.

Essop, M. F., N. Mda, J. Flamand, and E. H. Harley. 1997. Mitochondrial DNA comparisons between the African wild cat, European wild cat, and the domestic cat. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 27:71-72.

Johnson, W. E., and S. J. O'Brien. 1997. Phylogenetic reconstruction of the Felidae using 16S rRNA and NADH-5 mitochondrial genes. Journal of Molecular Evolution 44:S98-S116.

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Mattern, M. Y., and D. A. McLennan. 2000. Phylogeny and speciation of felids. Cladistics 16:232-253.

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Reig, S., M. J. Daniels, and D. W. Macdonald. 2001. Craniometric differentiation within wild-living cats in Scotland using 3D morphometrics. Journal of Zoology, London 253:121-132.

Salles, L. O. 1992. Felid phylogenetics: Extant taxa and skull morphology (Felidae, Aeluroidea). American Museum Novitates 3047:1-67.

Van Valkenburgh, B., J. Theodor, A. Friscia, and T. Rowe. 2001. Respiratory turbinates of carnivorans revealed by CT scans: A quantitative comparison. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 21:110A.


Felis silvestris lybica on The Animal Diversity Web (The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology)

The brain of Felis silvestris (Comparative Mammalian Brain Collections website)

Felis silvestris lybica on the IUCN Cat Specialist Group website

& Links

Front page image.

Felis silvestris

To cite this page: Dr. Pamela Owen, 2002, "Felis silvestris lybica" (On-line), Digital Morphology. Accessed July 25, 2024 at http://digimorph.org/specimens/Felis_sylvestris_lybica/female/.

©2002-20019 - UTCT/DigiMorph Funding by NSF