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Is this wild orange feline a new “subspecies”, a “living fossil” with a unique genome that arrived more than 8000 years ago? This is what researchers are preparing to prove, making the “ghjattu volpe” a very special animal.
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When he scoots off, it looks like an orange flash, or maybe yellow. Stealth, the ghjattu volpe – “cat-fox” in Corsican – is however not a myth. Today, the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB) lists 40 of them (alive or dead), mainly in the Asco Valley, located in the “upper center” of the island, but it is impossible to know their exact number. If the feline with the rusty coat and the bushy tail, which owes its name only to a resemblance to the fox and not to a cross, polarizes the attention of researchers so much, it is because it could represent a new under – kind of cat. Or rather, proof of a “new cat population, which makes more sense in biology”, likes to recall Eva-Maria Geigl, research director at the CNRS and co-leader of the paleogenomics team (1). Enough to give the animal a regulatory status to protect it. Because that’s where the battle is. It remains to be demonstrated by establishing its genetic map (with its own DNA) and phenotypic (coat and morphology), the only one capable of proving that it is apart, indeed different from its congeners. But many mysteries remain.
“We reveal a carnivorous mammal in the 21st century”
Appointment is made in the village of Moltifao, 700 inhabitants, headquarters of a branch of the OFB which leads d