I am fascinated by evolution and the way various life forms are categorized and compared. I have spent countless hours at home leafing through my copy of The Tree of Life (a Phylogenetic Classification) studying the branches in the tree and looking for interesting patterns (”Where did the four-chambered heart appear?”)
You won’t be surprised to hear that I am particularly interested in the evolution of felis catus (house cat). It is a tricky area and good information was hard to come by, especially for an amateur like me. I was, therefore, thrilled to find this wonderful article in the June 2009 Scientific American.I highly recommend this article, which uses clues from genetics, evolution, archaeology and palenontology to answer some of the long-standing questions about house cats, such as
- Did house cats descend from different species of wild cats, or from one species?
- When were cats first domesticated (the answer will surprise you)?
The authors also ask the why cats became domesticated, since they have no obvious utlity to humans. This part of the article contains a quote that I think captures the essence of the cat
“… whereas other domesticates were recruited from the wild by humans who bred them for specific tasks, cats most likely chose to live among humans because of opportunities they found for themselves.”