Cats are so nice, they conquered the world twice. That’s the takeaway from a new genetics-based analysis of how cats became domesticated and spread across ancient communities. Cats first attempted to coexist with humans 9,000 years ago in the Near East, based on the results published Monday in Nature Ecology & Evolution, but did not gain a solid foothold until thousands of years later, when a second wave stormed out of Africa. The study also reveals where tabby cats and their blotched fur originated, though researchers argue ancient peoples started the practice of keeping felines for practical reasons — hunting vermin — rather than aesthetic ones.

What they studied
A European team of geneticists and archaeologists collected and examined DNA from the bones and dental remains of 209 ancient and modern cats.

Specimens came from archaeological sites across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

The remains spanned 9,000 years, from Mesolithic period to the 20th century, and covered the five known species of wildcats: Near Eastern wildcat, central Asian wildcat, European wildcat, southern African wildcat and the Chinese desert cat. Of these five, only the Near Eastern wildcat was ultimately tamed by humans.

The team analyzed DNA from mitochondria, a structure known as …read more

Source:: PBS NewsHour – Science

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