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  • When a group of French archaeologists landed on the island of Cyprus in 2001, they quickly

  • found that they were ... outnumbered.

  • Despite having a population of about 1.2 million people, Cyprus turned out to have an even

  • bigger population of cats.

  • By some estimates, as many as 1.5 million felines, including both pets and feral cats,

  • roam the country.

  • You can find them practically everywhere!

  • But Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean, and, if you've ever tried to give a cat

  • a bath, you know most of them aren't big fans of water.

  • The closest mainland is Turkey, about 70 kilometers away!

  • So how did all of those cats get there?

  • Well, those French archaeologists might have found the answer.

  • While excavating the site of an ancient settlement, they discovered something quite surprising.

  • It was the grave of a man who was buried alongside offerings of flint tools, seashells andan

  • 8 month old cat.

  • Dating to around 9,500 years ago, this burial represented some of the oldest known evidence

  • of human/cat companionships anywhere in the world - predating the more well-known love

  • of cats in ancient Egypt by 4,000 years!

  • But when did this close relationship between humans and cats start?

  • Who were the ancestors of domesticated cats?

  • And how did humans help cats take over Cyprus...and eventually the world?

  • For that, we can thank the complex process known as domestication.

  • And yes -- even though we let them poop in our houses and knock stuff off our counters

  • and sometimes pee in the laundry basket for some reason -- we did domesticate them, even

  • though it might not always feel like it.

  • Today's domesticated cat is its own species, known as Felis catus.

  • And we can trace its origins to a species of wild cats called Felis silvestris, which

  • is made up of five different subspecies.

  • Based on studies of the genomes of modern house cats, one subspecies, called Felis silvestris

  • lybica, is the direct ancestor of all domesticated cats today.

  • And those wild cats -- often referred to as African wildcats -- can still be found across

  • North Africa and Southwest Asia.

  • And as you can tell, these ancestral cats don't look very different from their domesticated

  • descendants.

  • They're slightly larger, and they don't have the color variations in their coats that

  • we see in house cats.

  • Instead, they mostly have what are called mackerel-tabby patterns, with stripes that

  • run perpendicular to their spines.

  • You can even find this same pattern in the cats depicted in ancient Egyptian artwork.

  • Now, these wild kitties are solitary creatures that don't have the same social

  • structure that other animals, like wolves, do.

  • So scientists think that the domestication of cats was probably a different process from

  • the domestication of other animals.

  • But unfortunately, the fossil record of African wildcats isn't great.

  • Most haven't been preserved well enough to be used in genetic analysis, which is partly

  • why it's been so hard to figure out how cat domestication actually worked.

  • Some of the oldest known fossils include specimens from Cyprus that are about 11,000 years old,

  • and others in Turkey from around 10,000 years ago.

  • So, how did we get from Felis silvestris lybica to Felis catus?

  • Well, you know how hard it is to get cats to do stuff.

  • It took a lot of time!

  • And we still don't know the full picture, but the first step is understanding the different

  • ways in which animals can be domesticated.

  • A species is considered to bedomesticatedwhen it becomes genetically and permanently

  • modified through human-influenced breeding.

  • And it has to be reliant on humans on some level, like for food and shelter.

  • Or to clean out the litter box.

  • And American archaeologist Dr. Melinda Zeder has proposed that there are three pathways

  • to domestication: the prey pathway, the directed pathway, and the commensal pathway.

  • In the prey pathway, wild animals are first hunted by people.

  • Then, in order to better control the hunts, people begin to manage herds of the animals,

  • like goats and cattle.

  • This leads to captive breeding and eventually domestication of the species.

  • With the directed pathway, people use lessons they learned from previous attempts at domestication,

  • often through the prey pathway.

  • Horses and beasts of burden, like donkeys and camels, were most likely domesticated

  • this way.

  • We fast-tracked their domestication in order to harness their abilities to walk long distances

  • and carry heavy loads.

  • And finally, in the commensal pathway, wild animals are attracted to human settlements

  • by food.

  • They go where the people go, feeding off of their scraps, or on prey that may have also

  • been drawn to the humans, like mice or rats.

  • And this eventually leads to domestication.

  • This is probably how cats were domesticated.

  • For thousands of years, they stayed close to human dwellings for food, but weren't

  • necessarily close to the people themselves.

  • But eventually, people noticed that cats were actually pretty good at catching the pests

  • that plagued their food stores, and began to actively entice them to live in their settlements.

  • And we can get glimpses into this process by studying the remains of ancient kitties.

  • For example, isotopic analysis of cat remains from 5,600 years ago in northwestern China

  • has revealed trace amounts of millet, a staple grain in the diet of the human villagers there.

  • This suggests that cats were eating the mice that were feeding on stored millet, no doubt

  • a useful service for the villagers!

  • And the isotopic data from one cat revealed a diet that had less meat and more millet

  • than expected, suggesting that it either scavenged from, or was fed by, the villagers....

  • Aww!

  • So what did domestication, as a process, do to change wild cats into house cats?

  • Well, physically, domestication has made house cats smaller than their ancestors, and resulted

  • in new varieties in coat color and patterning.

  • These included new variations of the tabby coat, and the introduction of black, orange,

  • and white colors.

  • Most of these coat changes are fairly recent, and came about as recessive genes in wildcats

  • became more prominent.

  • Then by the 19th century, scientists believe, people started to selectively breed for more

  • variation in markings and colors.

  • But beyond size and color, domestication really didn't change the morphology of cats that

  • much compared to, say, dogs, which have seen major changes to their whole bodies.

  • This is mostly because of differences in breeding practices, as different dog breeds were bred

  • for specific purposes.

  • Modern cats also maintain more genetic and behavioral similarities with their wild ancestors

  • than most other domesticated animals do, including behaviors related to eating and breeding.

  • This is probably because of interbreeding between domesticated cats and surrounding

  • wildcat populations.

  • But the thing is, wildcats are actually thought to have been domesticated twice - once in

  • southwest Asia about 10,000 years ago, and again in Egypt, about 3,500 years ago!

  • This is based on an analysis of the genome of modern cats, which suggests that two different

  • source populations contributed to the current gene pool at two different times.

  • And we've also found archaeological evidence that supports multiple points of domestication.

  • For example, in Egypt, six burials have been uncovered at the site of Hierakonpolis containing

  • two adult cats and four kittens.

  • And they date to between 3,600 and 3,800 years ago.

  • Their smaller bones closely match the size of those in domesticated cats, and one cat's

  • skeleton even showed healed fractures, suggesting that it was cared for by its human companions.

  • After about 3,000 years ago in Egypt, we can see these relationships becoming closer, through

  • art and iconography that show cats alongside people.

  • And from there, it looks like cats were brought to Rome by early Greek settlers, as well as

  • through interactions between Rome and Egypt.

  • As civilizations begin to expand around 2,000 years ago, especially within the Roman Empire,

  • cats followed as well.

  • We know ancient Romans kept felines as pets, based on various artworks,like mosaics, that

  • show cats in more domestic settings, often hunting prey.

  • Roman cats were most likely adopted into households to catch rodents and other pests - much like

  • they did in the early stages of domestication.

  • But none of this actually tells us where the story of cat domestication started: after all If the

  • oldest evidence of domestic cats is on the island of Cyprus, then who brought cats to

  • Cyprus in the first place?

  • Well, all we know is that, at some point during the Early Holocene Epoch, possibly 11,000

  • years ago, people from southwest Asia began to migrate to Europe -- including Cyprus.

  • And they brought with them that subspecies of cat that was the ancestor of our domesticated

  • cats.

  • And, cats being cats, we ended up with millions of the little guys

  • In modern day Cyprus, the cat population has boomed to the point of being considered an

  • infestation.

  • Cats are often seen as vermin, and there have been many attempts to get a handle on their

  • growing population.

  • Luckily for the feral cats, though, there are many sanctuaries run by volunteers who

  • try to care for every stray.

  • But it's not just on this island where cats have commanded such a presence.

  • Our relationship has been mutually beneficial enough that domestic cats have truly taken

  • over the world. Today their estimated overall population of 600 million.

  • Cats have achieved world domination, but if it wasn't for us, they might've never

  • have left Africa and Asia.

  • We carried them to places they otherwise might never have seen.

  • So maybe our pet cats should treat us with a little more respect.

  • Mine could've started by not peeing on my laundry.

  • But I loved him anyway.

  • Big thanks and kitty snuggles to this month's Eontologists: Patrick Seifert, Jake Hart,

  • Jon Davison Ng, and Steve!

  • To join the Eonites, go patreon.com/eons and pledge your support...like right meow!

  • Kallie asked me to use those exact words!

  • But I also want to thank you for joining me in the Konstantin Haase Studio.

  • Be sure to subscribe at youtube.com/eons for more evolutionary adventures!

When a group of French archaeologists landed on the island of Cyprus in 2001, they quickly

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私たちはどのようにして猫を家畜化したのか(2回 (How We Domesticated Cats (Twice))

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    ㄚ腳 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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