If you're like us, then you've been following the news for the past few days about a possibly new and recently discovered species of cat, known affectionately to locals on the French island of Corsica as the "cat-fox."
Before this week, the cat-fox was thought to be a part of Corisican mythology. But now Corsican wildlife rangers are saying that they might be a new, undocumented species, this according to the Agence France-Presse (AFP). Agence France-Press (AFP).
"The cat-fox is part of our shepherd mythology. From generation to generation, they told stories of how the forest cats would attack the udders of their ewes and goats," Carlu-Antone Cecchini, the wildlife office's field agent in charge of forest cats, told AFP.
The "cat-fox" (or "ghjattu-volpe" in Corsican) is slightly larger than an average domestic cat and has "highly developed" canine teeth. The cat-fox also has a well-decorated tail-- most have two to four rings on their tails that end in a black tip, officials from the National Hunting and Wildlife Office told AFP.
Researchers at the National Hunting and Wildlife Office in Corsica have been examining these cats for over a decade. Back in 2012, they examined fur left behind when the cat-foxes rubbed their bodies on a stick that had been coated with an attractive scent. When the researchers examined the DNA from that fur, they found these cat-foxes weren't related to any known species around the world, but their DNA was similar to that of the African forest cat (Felis silvestris lybica).
Over the years, researchers have identified 16 cat-foxes on the island, the news outlet said, 12 of which have been captured, examined and released. Before being set free, the researchers placed GPS collars on some of those cat-foxes, so they can follow the animals' meanderings on the island.
Researchers found the feline's main predator is the golden eagle; they hypothesize that the animal might have been brought to the remote island by farmers in 6500 B.C., according to the AFP. But there's still much unknown about the cat-fox — and the researchers hope that the animal will be recognized as a new species and protected in the upcoming years.
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