Leopardus guttulus, or southern tigrina, is a species of wild cat in the subfamily Felinae. It is found in southern and southeastern Brazil, and was recognized to be a distinct species in 2013; it was formerly considered to belong to the species oncilla (L. tigrinus). At the margins of its range, the southern tigrina interbreeds with Geoffroy’s cats, L. geoffroyi, but it does not appear to interbreed with the population of oncilla in northeastern Brazil, which in contrast has a history of interbreeding with L. colocolo. The small neotropical cat has a yellowish-ocre coat patterned with open black rossettes. Physically, the southern tigrina can be distinguished from the oncilla by its slightly darker background coloring, larger rosette pattern, and slightly shorter tail. However, it is extremely difficult to distinguish between the two species by appearance alone, since there tends to be more genetic variation within each species than between the two species (Trigo et al. 2013). Believed to be endemic, or unique to a defined geographical location, the southern tigrina is a threatened species because its habitat, the Atlantic Forest, is quickly disappearing (Prostak 2013 and Fragmented Forests 2013). Currently, there is a push to better understand the biodiversity, ecology, evolution, and genetics of the southern tigrina in order to orchestrate a more effective conservation strategy for the species. In addition, further research is being conducted throughout South America to better understand the special differences between oncillas and southern tigrinas.
The Atlantic Forest habitat is located on the Eastern coast of South America, extending along the Atlantic coast of Brazil from Rio Grande do Norte to Rio Grande do Sul, and continuing inland as far as Paraguay and the Misiones Province of Argentina (Conservation International 2014). The southern tigrina is believed to be endemic to South and southeastern Brazil (Trigo et al. 2013).
While once expanding over 330 million acres, only 8%-15% of the original Atlantic Forest ecosystem remains today (Nature Conservancy 2013). Despite the drastic loss of ecosystem, the Atlantic Forest, also known as the Atlantic Rainforest, remains rich in biodiversity. The Atlantic Forest consists of several variations of forest, such as Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, and provides a dense and wet biologically diverse environment for the southern tigrina, as opposed to the Cerrado, or savannah, and Caatinga, or dry scrubland, habitats of the oncilla (Trigo et al. 2013). With an average temperature of 22oC, the Atlantic Forest provides a consistently warm climate for its resident species. However, little is known about the specific habitat requirements of the species. Research is being conducted to further identify which ecoregions southern tigrinas are specific to.
In ecology, speciation, or the evolution of new species, is an ongoing natural process. A demographic expansion following the last Glacial Maximum (20,000 years ago) is believed to have led to the allopatric speciation of southern tigrinas (Trigo et al. 2013). Because of habitat differentiation, interbreeding does not occur between oncillas and southern tigrinas. In contrast, hybridization and introgression occurs between southern tigrinas and Geoffroy’s cats at their contact zone in southern Brazil. It is currently believed that many southern tigrinas and Geoffrey’s cats are partial hybrids of one another, because of the high level of interbreeding that is occurring (Bora 2013).
- "Atlantic Forest." Conservation International. Conservation International, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014. <http://www.conservation.org/where/PRIORITY_AREAS/HOTSPOTS/SOUTH_AMERICA/ATLANTIC-FOREST/Pages/default.aspx>.
- Bora, Kukil. "New Species of Wild Cat Discovered in Brazilian Forests." International Business Times. IBT Media, 28 Nov. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2014. <http://www.ibtimes.com/new-species-wild-cat-discovered-brazilian-forests-1489088>.
- "Brazil: Atlantic Forest." The Nature Conservancy. Nature Conservancy, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014. <http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/southamerica/brazil/placesweprotect/atlantic-forest.xml>.
- Prostak, Sergio. "Leopardus guttulus: New Species of Wild Cat from Brazil." Sci-News.com. Sci-News.com, 28 Nov. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2014. <http://www.sci-news.com/biology/science-leopardus-guttulus-new-species-wild-cat-brazil-01579.html>.
- "South American Atlantic Forest." Fragmented Forests. Fragmented Forests, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014. <http://www.fragmentedforests.org/forest-facts/south-american-atlantic-forest/>.
- Trigo, Tatiane C., et al. "Molecular Data Reveal Complex Hybridization and a Cryptic Species of Neotropical Wild Cat." Current Biology (2013): 2528-33. Print.
- Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 537–540. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Trigo, Tatiane C.; Schneider, Alexsandra; de Oliveira, Tadeu G.; Lehugeur, Livia M.; Silveira, Leandro; Freitas, Thales R.O.; Eizirik, Eduardo (November 2013). "Molecular Data Reveal Complex Hybridization and a Cryptic Species of Neotropical Wild Cat". Current Biology. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2013.10.046.
- Arnold, Carrie. "A New Species of Wild Cat Found Prowling Brazilian Forests and Grasslands". National Geographic. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
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