Scientists have uncovered one of the secrets of cat evolution, according to the website of University College Dublin. Experts have studied highly detailed genome sequences and obtained new data about the evolution of the cat family into many different species: tigers, lions, domestic cats.
For example, experts have determined how genetic changes relate to cats’ ability to survive. Among them is the smell of prey.
“Cats are predators that rely heavily on their sense of smell to track prey. But the cat family is very diverse, with each species having a unique sensory evolutionary history,” explained Dr Graham Hughes.
Based on the genome, experts compared olfactory receptors and receptors responsible for pheromones. And they compared them both within species and between species. All this makes it possible to understand the role of genetic variability in adaptation and to identify sensory genes that all cats have and that are characteristic only of tigers and lions. It turned out that there is a serious difference at the level of genes responsible for odors between representatives of the last two species.
Scientists have suggested that the fact is that lions are social animals, while tigers prefer to live alone. Perhaps lions rely less on pheromones and other scents due to the fact that they are always in the company of their relatives, and this is reflected in their genome.
University College Dublin also clarified that according to a study by a team of experts from this university and the Texas School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (VMBS), the cat genome is more stable than that of other mammals. For example, chimpanzees and humans have large differences in the arrangement of chromosomes, but domestic cats and their larger cousins have less significant structural changes. The study is described in more detail in the scientific journal Nature Genetics. Its authors include William J. Murphy of VMBS.