Domestic cats have been worshiped as gods, reviled as devils and cherished as companions. News@nature.com looks at the feline family tree to find out when and where humans began to welcome cats into their homes. According to a new genetic analysis, modern-day housecats are descended from a population of domesticated wildcats that prowled the Middle East more than 100,000 years ago. Carlos Driscoll, a zoologist working at Oxford University and the US National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland, and his colleagues surveyed 979 cats from around the globe, including wildcats, feral cats, various domesticated breeds, sand cats and Chinese desert cats.
By comparing genome sequences, the researchers worked out the relationships between the different animals. DNA shows that domestic cats are most similar to wildcats currently living in the deserts of Israel, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The results are published this week in Science. “We found five distinct lineages dating back 100,000 years prior to any archaeological record of cat domestication,” says David Macdonald, a zoologist at Oxford University and a co-author on the study. “These appear to come from at least five female cats from the Near East whose descendants have been transported across the world by humans.”
More here. (For Abbas, the cat-lover)