Palaeogenomic Evidence for the Long-Term Reproductive Isolation Between Wild and Domestic Cats
58 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2023 Publication Status: PublishedMore...
Domestic cats were derived from the Near Eastern wildcat (Felis lybica), after which they dispersed with people into Europe. As they did so, it is possible that they interbred with the indigenous population of European wildcats (Felis silvestris). Gene flow between incoming domestic animals and closely related indigenous wild species has been previously demonstrated in other taxa including pigs, sheep, goats, bees, chickens and cattle. In the case of cats, a lack of nuclear, genome-wide data, particularly from Near Eastern wildcats, has made this possibility difficult to either detect or quantify. To address these issues, we generated 75 ancient mitochondrial genomes, 14 ancient nuclear genomes and 31 modern nuclear genomes from European and Near Eastern wildcats. Our results demonstrate that despite cohabitating for at least 2,000 years on the European mainland and in Britain, most modern domestic cats possessed less than 10% of their ancestry from European wildcats, and ancient European wildcats possessed little to no ancestry from domestic cats. The antiquity and strength of this reproductive isolation between introduced domestic cats and local wildcats was likely the result of behavioural and ecological differences. Intriguingly, this long-lasting reproductive isolation is currently being eroded in parts of the species’ distribution as a result of anthropogenic activities.
Keywords: domestication, palaeogenomics, cats
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