Although the union between human and cat is very old, the latter was domesticated relatively late compared to dogs. A new study has analyzed the DNA of about 200 cats from 100 to 9,000 years old and reveals that the feline population began to expand during the Neolithic.
Preserving the group of domestic cat genes living in our homes today was only possible thanks to the great contribution of the peoples of the Middle East and Egypt, according to the work led by the University of Leuven (Belgium).
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The scientific team collected data from archaeological remains found in Europe, Africa and Asia, from Mesolithic Romania to 20th century Angola.
The results point towards the existence of two lineages of felines that, for the most part, have led to modern domestic cat, which is descended from the African wild cat (Felis silvestris lybica), a wild subspecies found in North Africa and the Near East.
The first appeared in the Southwest Asia and it spread to Europe about 6,400 years ago. According to the analysis carried out by scientists, cats were domesticated by the first farmers in the Middle East about 10,000 years ago.
The domestication of the cat, based on a mutually beneficial relationship for feline and human, took place in the first agricultural settlements, where farmers accepted the entry of cats to keep rodents away from production. Over time, this behavior led to the domestication of the bobcat.
The contribution of the Egyptian lineage to the domestication of the cat
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The second line corresponds to that of most Egyptian mummies analyzed. In this case, the feline is spread throughout the Mediterranean and other parts of the world during the first millennium BC thanks to the introduction of cats on commercial ships as mouse catchers.
However, there is still some unknown about the origin of egyptian cats, according to the researchers.
"It is still not clear if they descend from cats imported from the Middle East or if a second domestication process took place in Egypt," says Claudio Ottoni, one of the authors of this research and member of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS, for his acronym in French).
Finally, the scientists looked at the different patterns on the skin of cats throughout history and discovered that the recessive genetic mutation associated with the classic tabby cat, or tabby cat, did not appear until the Middle Ages. Until then, most ancient cats had stripes.
This process occurred at first in Southwest Asia and later spread throughout Europe and Africa, concluding that the earliest domestication of the cat was in all probability focused on behavioral traits, rather than more factors. aesthetic.
Here you can see a Nature video about the domestication of cats:
Cover image: Stock Photos - By Esin Deniz on Shutterstock.
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