Cradle of civilization also cats’ cradle

Friday, June 29th, 2007

Cradle of civilization also cats’ cradle:

The near Eastern wildcat, known scientifically as Felis silvestris lybica, is the likely ancestor of all the cats whose genes were sampled by the team, they report in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

“Domestic cats throughout the entire world had a common ancestor and that common ancestor lived in the Near East. There was no separate domestication in Europe or South Africa or China,” said Carlos Driscoll of the National Cancer Institute and the University of Oxford in Britain.

“The domestication of wild species to complement human civilization stands as one of the more successful ‘biological experiments’ ever undertaken,” wrote the researchers, led by Dr. Stephen O’Brien of the National Cancer Institute, in their report.

“For cats, the process began over 9,000 years ago as the earliest farmers of the Fertile Crescent domesticated grains and cereals as well as livestock animals.” The Fertile Crescent stretches from modern-day Egypt to Iran.

Preserved remains show that cats were valued by Egyptians, and one skeleton unearthed in Cyprus in 2004 showed that people were keeping cats as pets more than 9,000 years ago.

Driscoll, who admits he is a cat person, adds: “You are not civilized without a cat.”

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