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Cat Fossils Discovery Reveal 5,300 Years Old Feline Domestication

Update Date: Dec 17, 2013 01:43 PM EST
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Chinese archaeologists have found a clear evidence of cats being domesticated about 5,300 years ago, a study suggests.

The fossil discovery is thought to be an ‘important step’ in understanding feline transformation from pest-control to pet. It is also the missing link of the history of the world’s most popular pet.

“At least three different lines of scientific inquiry allow us to tell a story about cat domestication that is reminiscent of the old ‘house that Jack built’ nursery rhyme,” said study co-author Fiona Marshall, PhD, a professor of archaeology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis in the press release.

“Our data suggest that cats were attracted to ancient farming villages by small animals, such as rodents that were living on the grain that the farmers grew, ate and stored.”

However the location where the fossils were found is completely unexpected.

“Results of this study show that the village of Quanhucun was a source of food for the cats 5,300 years ago, and the relationship between humans and cats was commensal, or advantageous for the cats,” Marshall added. “Even if these cats were not yet domesticated, our evidence confirms that they lived in close proximity to farmers, and that the relationship had mutual benefits.”

In their study, researchers have emphasized several factors that prove that the remains belonged to cats who developed a sort-of unique relationship with long-ago farmers.

Researchers examined the ratio of carbon and nitrogen isotopes in the found bone collagen. Through isotope analysis it is easy to determine where an animal fell in the food chain and whether its dies consisted mostly of plants or of meat.

Prior to the study, scientists believed in the school of thoughts that cat domestication was related to agriculture. Wildcats were drawn to farming settlements by the promise of food scraps and also a ready supply of rats and mice.

The evidences were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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