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Cats Spread Around The World Through Farming And Vikings' Expeditions, DNA Study Shows

First Posted: Sep 28, 2016 03:42 AM EDT
Cat Briciola with pretty and different colour of eyes
The domestication of cats started in agriculture in Turkey and Eastern Mediterranean and through sea voyages and Vikings' expedition. Peter Forster / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0

Cats are full of surprises and they will astonish you more on how they fill the world with their adoring and witty presence. A DNA analysis reveals that the domestication and proliferation of cats come in two waves namely through agriculture and sea voyages.

The study was submitted at the International Symposium on Biomolecular Archaeology in Oxford University. It was published in the journal Nature, according to ABC News.

The study was led by Eva-Maria Geigl, an evolutionary geneticist from the Institute Jacques Monod in Paris and colleagues. They examined the mitochondrial DNA of 209 domestic cats that were found at 30 archeological sites in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. The study indicates that felines span human history, from the beginning of agriculture through the 18th century, reports Smithsonian.

The team of researchers discovered that cats spread in two waves. First, is when agriculture began in the eastern Mediterranean and Turkey, where the wild ancestors of domestic cats were spotted. The early farmers saw the potential of wild cats in protecting their grain field from rodents. With this, they began to domesticate their breeds.

The second wave of the propagation of cats happened many thousand years ago through sea voyages. An Egyptian mitochondrial DNA was discovered in a Viking site in North Germany between 700 and 1000 A.D. The researchers also found that cats with a mitochondrial lineage from Egypt appeared in Turkey, Bulgaria and sub-Saharan Africa between the fourth century B.C. and the fourth century A.D. They theorize sailors brought along cats with them to control rodents. This made the cats multiplied to port cities during trading missions.

The explosion of cats is more complicated than previously thought with other studies and discoveries. Pontus Skoglund, a population geneticist at Harvard Medical School said that there are so many interesting observations. "I didn't even know there were Viking cats."

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