What do wild cats live on

Where do the house cats come from

The oldest evidence of a cohabitation of cats and humans is 9,500 years old and comes from Cyprus. Where the domestic cat originally came from, however, was unclear until now, as the evolution of cats is difficult to understand. This is due on the one hand to the great similarity of the various subspecies of the wild cat Felis silvestris and on the other hand to the frequent crossings of the subspecies with each other, which obscure the genetic traces of the cat ancestors. In order to clarify the relationships more precisely, the scientists compared the genetic makeup of almost 1,000 cats, including feral and bred domestic cats, European wild cats, black cats from Africa, steppe cats from Central Asia and Chinese desert cats.

On the basis of the genetic markers examined, the wild cats can be divided into six groups, the researchers write: one European, one Central Asian, one from the Middle East, one from South Africa, one from China and the group of sand cats, which, however, belong to a different species belong. All domestic cats examined also belonged to the group of wild cats from the Middle East, whose lineage is more than 100,000 years old. This similarity suggests that the ancestors of domestic cats come from the region around the fertile crescent in the north of the Arabian Peninsula, according to the researchers.

In contrast to other domestic animals, cats were probably not originally kept as farm animals, but rather regarded as a kind of useful roommate. This shared apartment probably goes back to the first farmers in the fertile crescent: their grain stores attracted the rodents from the surrounding area, which in turn lured the wild cats to the farms. According to popular theory, it was also the animals' useful ability to decimate the annoying rodents that led humans to tame the animals so that they could eventually spread all over the world.

Carlos Driscoll (National Cancer Institute, Frederick) et al .: Science, online pre-publication, DOI: 10.1126 / science.1139518 ddp / Wissenschaft.de? Ilka Lehnen-Beyel
June 29, 2007

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