The main task of the IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group is the continuous review of the conservation status of all cat species and subspecies according to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species process. A critical subject in this task is the systematic classification of the cat family, the Felidae. The taxonomy of cats has undergone considerable changes in the past, not only at the level of species and subspecies, but even at the level of genus. The classification presently used by the Cat Specialist Group was published in Wild Cats – Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan edited by K. Nowell and P. Jackson (published by IUCN 1996) and is based on the state of research in the early 1990s. Since then mainly studies using more advanced morphological, biogeographical and, foremost, molecular techniques have provided new insights into cat phylogeny and variation, suggesting several important changes with regard to species and subspecies, and the evolutionary relationships between genera and species. These changes may impact on the Red List process and on the listing of taxonomic units in international treaties and national legislation. Therefore the classification used by IUCN institutions has significance beyond the Red List. The Cat Specialist Group initiated a review of the present taxonomic system of the Felidae by an expert group, the Cat Classification Task Force CCTF. Their Terms of Reference were endorsed by Dr Simon Stuart, IUCN/SSC Chair 2008-2016.
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