A Visual Guide to Cats

JaguarFrom Laura Klappenbach:

A Visual Guide to Cats

Cats are graceful, efficient predators that belong to the Family Felidae (a family known commonly as ‘felids’).

The cat family is diverse and includes the familiar domestic cat, lions, tigers, ocelots, jaguars, caracals, leopards, pumas, lynxes, and many other groups of cat.

Cats have muscular bodies and are efficient hunters armed with acute eyesight, great aqility, and a sharp set of teeth. …

Find out more: A Visual Guide to Cats

Reintroduction of leopards to Russian Caucasus: here.

Three legged tiger in Borneo: here.

Iberian lynx: here.

Jaguars etc. in Mayan history: here.

3 thoughts on “A Visual Guide to Cats

  1. Last updated June 28, 2007 2:50 p.m. PT
    Domestic cats may have ancient roots


    WASHINGTON — Garfield, Morris and the Aristocats get the fame, but look to the origins of today’s furry felines and you find “lybica,” a Middle Eastern wildcat. Domestic cats can be traced to wild progenitors that interbred well over 100,000 years ago, new research indicates.

    “House cats – which includes fancy breeds and feral cats – those cats all form a genetic group that is virtually indistinguishable from ones in the Middle East,” said Stephen J. O’Brien of the National Cancer Institute.

    “So, domestication, for sure, took place in the Middle East where those cats live today,” added O’Brien, co-author of a paper appearing in this week’s online edition of the journal Science.

    Carlos Driscoll, of Oxford University and NCI, and an international team of researchers studied the origins of those loving and aloof, graceful and finicky pets that entertain or supervise millions of homes.

    It’s serious research, because cats are a model for some human genetic diseases, such as polycystic kidney disease and retinal atrophy, Driscoll explained in a telephone interview. In addition, the work is expected to assist in conservation efforts for wild cats, he said.

    Cats’ ancestry was traced to five types of wild cats, but that doesn’t mean they were domesticated five times, Driscoll said. Rather, these five types managed to interbreed at various times, with the result being Felis silvestris lybica, which appears to be the ancestor of modern house cats.

    “This was an amazing experiment when animals came out of the wild,” O’Brien said. “Cats are known for their ferocious, deadly nature,” O’Brien said, so this is an extraordinary change for them.

    Cats may have been domesticated once or many times, he said, adding that the most likely case is they were domesticated once and other wild cats bred with the domesticated ones.

    “I wasn’t there, but all the data supports that,” he said.

    The researchers found wild cats, with DNA identical to domestic cats, in Israel, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

    By studying the mitochondrial DNA of 979 domestic and wild cats from Europe, Asia and Africa the researchers concluded that the origins of the species – what O’Brien calls a feline Adam and Eve – developed between 130,000 and 160,000 years ago. Mitochondrial DNA is passed down from mother to child.

    Domestication of cats began as long as 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, O’Brien said, as the earliest farmers domesticated grains and cereal. As that occurred, local wild cats adapted to hunting rodents in the grain and developed a relationship with humans.

    The earliest archaeological evidence of cats and humans in association dates to 9,500 years ago in Cyprus.

    Joan Miller, chair of outreach for The Cat Fanciers’ Association, based in San Diego, Calif., said the most interesting aspect of the research “is the finding that some wild cats and domestic cats from the Near East were distinct from the other Felis silvestris subspecies long associated with domestic cat origins.”

    “Since the DNA samples were taken from cats in remote desert areas there would be less likelihood of hybridization occurring,” she said. “I would like to know more about these cats.”

    “We have evidence of cat domestication by the Egyptians because of their prolific artwork. It would be interesting to try to investigate early artwork from Israel, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain or Saudi Arabia,” added Miller, who was not part of the research group.

    Other wild cats in the study included the European wildcat, Felis silvestris silvestris; Central Asian wildcat, F. s. ornata; sub-Saharan African wildcat, F. s. cafra; and the Chinese desert cat, F. s. bieti.

    The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

    On the Net:

    Science: http://www.sciencemag.org


    Collared animal wanders in from Switzerland
    (ANSA) – Bolzano, April 4 – The lynx has returned to Italy after being wiped out 100 years ago, the forestry service said Friday.

    The reappearance of one of the wild cats in the northern Italian mountains, which has wandered in from neighbouring Switzerland, was an event ”of exceptional interest and value,” it said.

    The service noted the lynx had lived in the Alps from earliest recorded history until it was exterminated by hunters and sheep farmers in the early 20th century.

    The presence of the lynx in the Val di Non mountains has been detected thanks to a signalling collar slipped onto the animal in Switzerland last month.

    Lynxes became extinct in that country at about the same time as they did in Italy but were successfully re-introduced in the 1970s.

    The feline was sporadically spotted there until the mid-1990s but after that it disappeared again.

    A predator at the top of the mountain food chain, the lynx poses no danger to humans.

    The Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) is a medium-sized cat native to European and Siberian forests, where it is one of the predators. The Eurasian lynx is the biggest of the four species of lynx. All have short tails, characteristic tufts of black hair on the tip of the ears and a ruff under the neck which has black bars, resembling a bow tie. The Eurasian lynx has grey to reddish fur with black spots. It is mainly nocturnal and lives solitarily as an adult. Lynxes prey on hares, rabbits, rodents, foxes, roe deer and reindeer. As with other cats, going for larger prey presents a risk to the animal. There are three other species of lynx: the Iberian (Spanish) lynx, the Canadian lynx and the bobcat.


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