DNA analysis of several cat remains acorss the world provides more insight into cat domestication history
The furry, cuddly cats have been with us for ages, yet we know very little about their domestication. Unlike dogs, their origin is largly shrouded in mystery. To get a more complete picture about the ancestry of modern house cats, researchers sequenced the genomes of more than 200 cats from multiple archeological sites across the world ranging from as far back as 15,000 years ago to just 300 years ago.
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DNA analysis revealed two distinct waves of cat population growth - first occurred shortly after the development of agriculture by humans and the second after the domestication of cats in ancient Egypt.
The first wave was likely the result of the increased population of rodents, which were spoiling the grains. Therefore, early farmers domesticated cats to hunt rodents and protect their grains from small gnawing mammals. Researchers have also found a link between cats living in Middle East and in eastern Mediterranean. The second wave occurred thousands of years later when Egyptian people traveled to other parts of the world and took their felines with them. That is why, cat remains found in Eurasia and Africa share the same genetic code.
“We found for the first time that in prehistoric times cats from the Near East and in classical times from Egypt accompanied people on their journey, thereby conquering the Ancient World,” Evolutionary geneticist Eva-Maria Geigl and one of the researchers involved in the study told ABC.
“They were the ancestors of our present day domestic cats all over the world.”
Researchers also found that fierce Vikings also loved little kitties. They have found a cat buried in a grave at a Viking site dating to between the eighth and eleventh century in northern Germany, making it a ‘Viking cat.’
“There are so many interesting observations,” said Pontus Skoglund, a population geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. “I didn’t even know there were Viking cats.
Researchers also found that the tabby cats, a typical domestic cat that has a coat featuring distinctive stripes and dots, was first appeared in the Mediaeval period.