Monday, July 02, 2007

YOUR KITTY GOES BACK 9,000 YEARS!


Combining the fields of genetics and archeology, scientists have found that cat domestication occurred near the beginning of human civilization, long before many previous archaeological estimates. Published in the journal Science, the research used DNA from modern
house cats to trace the origin of domestic cats back to a specific time and region that coincided with the settlement of humans in the Middle East region known as the Fertile Crescent.

In 2004, French researchers found the remains of a cat buried with a human who died roughly 9,500 years ago on the island of Cyprus, where there are no native wildcat species. This discovery placed the association between humans and cats much further back in history than previously thought.

"Mankind settled down into agricultural villages for the first time about 12,000 years ago, developing many domestic cereals and plants," said Stephen O'Brien, one of the study's authors. "That's about the time and exact same place that cats walked out of woods and did
something unusual: act friendly.... Cats provided two things to early farmers: companionship and the ability to dispatch rodents that were attacking grain stores, which was critical for early farmers to get through winters," O'Brien said. This cooperative relationship may explain why
domestic cats, unlike dogs and their ancestral relatives, wolves, have not evolved very far from wildcat species.

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