[Taxacom] domestication of the house cat

Ken Kinman kinman at hotmail.com
Wed Jul 4 00:07:52 CDT 2007

     Well, I can't open the pdf file here at home with my WebTV, so I can 
only speculate.  The most interesting thing is the estimated date of the 
common ancestor (of the five or more maternal lines) of 70,000 to 100,000 
years ago.  This may well document a bottleneck of Felis sylvestris 
populations at the time of the Toba eruption (along with the bottleneck of 
human populations).  But as Richard noted, this study will not tell us the 
whole story.  Once domesticated cats were slowly carried into Europe, a 
considerable amount of mixing with the European subspecies could have 
occurred.  If so, I suspect that it was more heavily European males (perhaps 
more aggressive) breeding with imported females.  Or perhaps both European 
males and females were just more resistant to being domesticated.

     Either way, mitochondrial genes can't tell us what happened once 
domesticated cats entered Europe or southern parts of Africa or central and 
eastern Asia.  Lulubelle could very well have European genes, but I would 
suspect that she and all other domesticated cats are genetically more Near 
Eastern than European (or anything else).  My impression is that gene flow 
is mainly from wild populations into domesticated populations, and that it 
is much less from domesticates to wild populations.  That's a good thing, or 
we might not have any pure wild populations left by now.
>From: "Richard Zander" <Richard.Zander at mobot.org>
>To: "Donat Agosti" <agosti at amnh.org>,<taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
>Subject: Re: [Taxacom] domestication of the house cat
>Date: Tue, 3 Jul 2007 15:22:50 -0500
>Well, let's see. I've not seen the actual article, but neither has most
>of us since we need subscriptions to the paper and journals involved.
>Let's extrapolate from what we know just from the posting on Taxacom.
>Females are cited, so mitochondrial loci are involved, which track
>genealogies of females (unless you have some kind of mitochondrial
>capture). Doubtless there were too few data in the study or the
>sequences just did not give the right resolution, so the domesticated
>cat clade is really a multifurcation of five branches. So where did the
>branches end? Doubtless near the Libyan clade. How much nearer the
>Libyan clade than some other clade? This is the nut of the article yet
>the word "five" is mentioned (actually denoting bad resolution) and no
>other mathematical term, such as the bootstrap value evaluating the
>closeness of domestic and Libyan variants, is given.
>Well, probably the domestic cat is pretty well supported as near the
>Libyan wild version, but we don't know for sure without reading the
>article. That's for the female. What if the male was from the European
>or any other variant? Half the genome is then contributed by this other
>My book on cats says my cat Lulubelle is a combination of European and
>African wild types, based on morphology I think. Is this wrong or right?
>Even if the domestic cat is truly in all respects most closely related
>to the Libyan wild cat, my point is that we have a tendency to accept as
>essentially correct statements that have considerable uncertainty.
>Considerable in this case can mean not much but enough that scientists
>should not act on the assertion.
>In other fields that use statistics and math, like psychology and
>ecology, a low level of uncertainty is tolerated (5 % or 1 %). We have
>not yet advanced to this state in systematics even though we laud and
>respect articles on phylogenetics based on statistics and that involve
>such mathematical expressions as "five."
>Richard H. Zander
>Voice: 314-577-0276
>Missouri Botanical Garden
>PO Box 299
>St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 USA
>richard.zander at mobot.org
>Web sites: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/
>and http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/bfna/bfnamenu.htm
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