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Claudio Ottoni, Wim Van Neer, Bea De Cupere, Julien Daligault, Silvia Guimaraes, Joris Peters, Nikolai Spassov, Mary Prendergast, Nicole Boivin, Arturo Morales-Muniz, Adrian Balasescu, Cornelia Becker, Norbert Benecke, Adina Boroneant, Hijlke Buitenhuis, Jwana Chahoud, Alison Crowther, Laura Llorente, Nina Manaseryan, Hervé Monchot, Vedat Onar, Marta Osypinska, Olivier Putelat, Erendira Quintana Morales, Jacqueline Studer, Ursula Wierer, Ronny Decorte, Thierry Grange and Eva-Maria Geigl (2017)

The palaeogenetics of cat dispersal in the ancient world

Nature Ecology & Evolution(art.nr. 0139).

The cat has long been important to human societies as a pest-control agent, object of symbolic value and companion animal, but little is known about its domestication process and early anthropogenic dispersal. Here we show, using ancient DNA analysis of geographically and temporally widespread archaeological cat remains, that both the Near Eastern and Egyptian populations of Felis silvestris lybica contributed to the gene pool of the domestic cat at different historical times. While the cat’s worldwide conquest began during the Neolithic period in the Near East, its dispersal gained momentum during the Classical period, when the Egyptian cat successfully spread throughout the Old World. The expansion patterns and ranges suggest dispersal along human maritime and terrestrial routes of trade and connectivity. A coat-colour variant was found at high frequency only after the Middle Ages, suggesting that directed breeding of cats occurred later than with most other domesticated animals.
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