Wild to tame cats
However, it wasn't until the Middle Ages that a recessive gene mutation linked with tabby cat markings appeared. This mutation showed up first in the Near East and then spread throughout Europe and Africa. In addition, it wasn't until the 19th century that humans began breeding cats to have fancy fur coat patterns. This indicates that early cat domestication focused on behavioral traits rather than aesthetic ones, the researchers said.
"This suggests that for a very long time, cats have not been subject to strong selection through breeding," said study co-senior researcher Eva-Maria Geigl, a research director at the French National Center for Scientific Research. "The present-day breeds, in particular the fancy breeds, are mostly a modern 'invention' from the 19th century." [Read the Full Story on Cat Domestication]
Here, study co-author Wim Van Neer, a professor of bioarchaeology at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, digs up 6,000-year-old cat remains in Hierakonpolis, Egypt. However, the researchers did not include any cats from Hierakonpolis in the analysis.
"Starting from archeological bones and teeth, we powdered a little part of them in a machine that is cooled with liquid nitrogen, extracted DNA from this powder with chemicals, purified the DNA and analyzed it," Geigl told Live Science in an email.
The researchers were unable to analyze the DNA of this particular mummy because wrapped mummies cannot be sampled. Rather, they got samples from deteriorated mummies.
[Read the Full Story on Cat Domestication]