The Evolution of House Cats

The Evo­lu­tion of House Cats: Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can:

[genet­ic analy­sis] revealed five genet­ic clus­ters, or lin­eages, of wild­cats. Four of these lin­eages cor­re­spond­ed neat­ly with four of the known sub­species of wild­cat and dwelled in spe­cif­ic places: F. sil­vestris sil­vestris in Europe, F. s. bieti in Chi­na, F. s. orna­ta in Cen­tral Asia and F. s. cafra in south­ern Africa. The fifth lin­eage, how­ev­er, includ­ed not only the fifth known sub­species of wild­cat — F. s. lybi­ca in the Mid­dle East—but also the hun­dreds of domes­tic cats that were sam­pled, includ­ing pure­bred and mixed-breed felines from the U.S., the U.K. and Japan. In fact, genet­i­cal­ly, F. s. lybi­ca wild­cats col­lect­ed in remote deserts of Israel, the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates and Sau­di Ara­bia were vir­tu­al­ly indis­tin­guish­able from domes­tic cats. That the domes­tic cats grouped with F. s. lybi­ca alone among wild­cats meant that domes­tic cats arose in a sin­gle locale, the Mid­dle East, and not in oth­er places where wild­cats are com­mon.

The arti­cle goes on to pos­tu­late that wild­cats took advan­tage of increased rodent pop­u­la­tions in prox­im­i­ty to humans, caused by the com­mence­ment of agri­cul­ture approx­i­mate­ly 10,000 years ago in the Mid­dle East’s Fer­tile Cres­cent — much ear­li­er and in a dif­fer­ent loca­tion to the estab­lished wis­dom of where the rela­tion­ship between man and cat start­ed. Makes sense though.

(Via Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can.)

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