Friday, June 29, 2007
Not your typical Friday Cat Blogging
There's a tradition in blogging culture termed "Friday Cat Blogging". in which bloggers post light-hearted articles on Fridays, with the clichéd example being pictures of one's cats. Well, as you can see, I did post a picture of Bella Cat Badger, perched upon my closet door as she so often is, but I actually have a more serious reason for bringing up the topic of cats this Friday -- Driscoll and colleagues newly published paper "The Near Eastern Origin of Cat Domestication" (probably not open access, unfortunately). Anyway, as the article involves both cats and phylogenetic inference, how could I resist?
Small wild cats live (or have lived) in many places in Europe, Africa, and Asia. So an obvious question is whether domestic cats in different parts of the world are more closely related to their local wild cats (evidence of independent domestication events in different parts of the world) or to wild cats from one part of the world. Driscoll and colleagues addressed the issue by two different methods: making a neighbor-joining tree from short tandem repeat (STR) profiling (basically DNA fingerprinting) of 979 cats and by making a maximum parsimony tree from the sequence of the ND5 and ND6 genes from the mitochondria of 742 cats. The cats contained a mixture of wildcats, feral domestic cats, and domestic cats of various breeds sampled from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Both analyses supported the conclusion that the closest ancestors of both European and Asian domestic cats are wildcats from the Near East. However, the mitochondrial data suggests that there are at least five maternal lineages within that group.