It has been baptized as the Narino cat or Leopardus narinensis and the only proof of its existence is a sample of its skin.
After more than two decades of researcha group of Colombian scientists has managed to identify a new species of cat that they have named the Narino cat or Leopardus narinensis, according to a study published in the journal Genes.
The history of the discovery dates back to 2001, when the specialist in genetics and evolution Manuel Ruiz-Garcia, from the Javeriana University, found among a cat fur collection from the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute, in the Colombian municipality of Villa de Leyva, a skin different from the others: the fur was dense and reddish and the head was flat and rounded, different from that of the common ocelots. The sample came from the paramo of Galeras volcanoin the department of Narino, in the south of the South American country, reports Pesquisa Javeriana.
Leopardus narinensis – The cat of Narino The new species of Feline from the department of Narino. Proposal after the efforts of a group of researchers, since the skin was found in 2001 in the always valuable collections of the @inst_humboldtcoming from the Galeras Volcano. pic.twitter.com/VmMOJ0Z4gH
– Alejo Guerrero (@alejog019) July 7, 2023
After that find, the researcher spent years collecting samples of other tigrillo-like species that live in Central and South America, with the aim of comparing them with the DNA of the mysterious skin. Tests revealed that the skin belonged to a hitherto unknown species.
According to experts, the Narino cat was separated from its closest relatives, the huina and the Geoffroy’s cat, about a million years ago. Their common ancestor lived from southern Colombia to Patagonia, but due to the climatic changes at the end of the Pleistocenea small population was isolated on the Galeras volcano giving rise to this new species.
Despite numerous attempts to find the cat, Ruiz-Garcia has never seen it, and the communities surrounding the volcano have not recognized it either, so the only proof of its existence is that skin. “We find ourselves before the paradox that this is a species that is on the verge of extinction or extinctbut that was only recently discovered for science”, points out the researcher.