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Ancient DNA Shows Cats Domesticated Themselves – Why Are We Not Surprised?


The domestication of animals was an amazing feat that changed human relationships with the natural world.

But while a Pomeranian looks nothing like a wolf, a thoroughbred jumping horse looks nothing like a wild pony, and a pot-bellied pig looks nothing like a black wild boar, house cats’ domestic ‘they look a lot like wild cats.

That’s because they were domesticated, not through form, but through function, and they really haven’t done very well, as research from 2017 reveals that the wild ancestors of bobcats essentially share the same genetics as today’s domestic cats.

The reason for this is simple: the two cat lineages, the European forest cat (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and the Southwest Asian / North African Wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica) They are lone hunters who lack a strong social hierarchy, making them poor candidates for domestication.

Rather it was the cat that came to seize the territory around the former farmer’s house, or his former sailor’s dock, as there was abundant supply of prey in the form of rodents here, which made his species and ours inseparable. . linked.

TO 2017 study examined the genetics of more than 200 cats, of the five wild subspecies, Romanian stone age cat remains, and even Egyptian cat mummies, and found that F. Lybica in the Near East in 4,400 BC. C., and in North Africa around 1,500 a. C., gave rise to the domestic cat, probably because it was here that the first agricultural civilizations occurred.

Still, cats existed unchanged for thousands of years, essentially until the Middle Ages, before selective breeding, the typical activity of domestication, began to give rise to more unique types of cats.

“I think there was no need to subject the cats to such a selection process, as they did not need to be changed,” evolutionary geneticist and study co-author Eva-Maria Geigl told National Geographic. “They were perfect as they were.”

Instead of merging social hierarchies and selectively reproducing as humans did with wolves, cats simply existed in close proximity to humans, never fully entering social processes.

The rise of the tabby

The first house cat genes the scientists identified were the spotting pattern in the tabby cat, the first truly domesticated house cat, if you can use that word.

PLUS: You thought it was a kitten lost in the snow, but it was one of the most endangered mammals in Europe

Striped tabby cats were found in the European wildcat gene pool before 6,500 BC. C., and they remained there for 3,000 years before emerging in the genetic profile of the Near East.

Tabby cats developed their characteristic spots in the Ottoman Empire in 1300 CE, and it was not until the 18th century that the tabby pattern began to be associated, socially, with domestication.

It wasn’t until the 19th century, thousands of years after the diversification of dogs, that Europeans began to select certain characteristics to breed together in cats, resulting in the Russian Blue, perhaps around 1875, and the Maine Coon. at about the same time.

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While they are not really domestic, cats are a famous part of our lives and exist in 74 million households in the United States alone. Their lack of selective breeding means that, for the most part, the genetic susceptibility to disease, typical of hyperspecialized dog breeds, is largely absent in cats, and it is not uncommon for them to live beyond their 20s.

IF you are a feline, share this fascinating story with your friends …


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