Just out | The palaeogenetics of cat dispersal in the ancient world @ Nature Ecology & Evolution

Just out @ Nature Ecology & Evolution

The palaeogenetics of cat dispersal in the ancient world


Claudio Ottoni, Wim Van Neer […] Eva-Maria Geigl


The cat has long been important to human societies as a pest-control agent, object of symbolic value and companion animal, but little is known about its domestication process and early anthropogenic dispersal. Here we show, using ancient DNA analysis of geographically and temporally widespread archaeological cat remains, that both the Near Eastern and Egyptian populations of Felis silvestris lybica contributed to the gene pool of the domestic cat at different historical times. While the cat’s worldwide conquest began during the Neolithic period in the Near East, its dispersal gained momentum during the Classical period, when the Egyptian cat successfully spread throughout the Old World. The expansion patterns and ranges suggest dispersal along human maritime and terrestrial routes of trade and connectivity. A coat-colour variant was found at high frequency only after the Middle Ages, suggesting that directed breeding of cats occurred later than with most other domesticated animals.

The domestic cat is present on all continents except Antarctica, and in the most remote regions of the world, and its evolutionary success is unquestioned. While it is nowadays one of the most cherished companion animals in the Western world, for ancient societies barn cats, village cats and ships’ cats provided critical protection against vermin, especially rodent pests responsible for economic loss and disease. Owing to a paucity of cat remains in the archaeological record, current hypotheses about early cat domestication rely on only a few zooarchaeological case studies. These studies suggest that ancient societies in both the Near East and Egypt could have played key roles in cat domestication.

Keywords: Archaeology, Evolutionary genetics, Population genetics

READ IT HERE: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-017-0139

Lurdes Fonseca

Assistant Professor and Researcher at University of Lisbon
Sociologist (PhD), Paleontologist (Researcher in Micropaleontology), Majors in Sociology and Biology, Minor in Geology. Main interests in Paleontology: Microfossils, Molecular fossils, Paleobiology and Paleoecology. (read more about me)