How cats conquered the world (and a few Viking ships)
Thousands of years before cats came to dominate Internet culture, they swept through ancient Eurasia and Africa carried by early farmers, ancient mariners and even Vikings, finds the first large-scale look at ancient-cat DNA.
The study, presented at a conference on 15 September, sequenced DNA from more than 200 cats that lived between about 15,000 years ago and the eighteenth century ad.
Researchers know little about cat domestication, and there is active debate over whether the house cat (Felis silvestris) is truly a domestic animal — that is, its behavior and anatomy are clearly distinct from those of wild relatives. “We don’t know the history of ancient cats. We do not know their origin, we don’t know how their dispersal occurred,” says Eva-Maria Geigl, an evolutionary geneticist at the Institut Jacques Monod in Paris. Read more.