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How ancient cats lived on the edge of domestication



Cats can transmit multiple infections, including MRSA, toxoplasmosis, ringworm and hookworm.

Cats can transmit multiple infections, including MRSA, toxoplasmosis, ringworm and hookworm.

According to a recent study, the ancestors of modern cats followed early farmers into Europe, but they were not pets. Nitrogen isotope ratios in the bones of six cats from the Neolithic Poland indicate that these ancient cats prey on rodents. These rodents eat human crops, but their diets are similar to those of the locals and they can be trusted. Domestic dogs have different diets. In other words, the cat̵

7;s lifestyle is similar to that of modern coyotes.

Cat life near People, but not versus they

The pedigree of all modern cats can be traced back to the Near Eastern Wildcat. In fact, distinguishing these wild cats from domestic cats based on their DNA is still a bit tricky. Sometime around 5,300 years ago, these wild cats seemed to notice rodents like rats, voles and hazels swarming in, feeding on human settlements and storing them with crops and food. Rodents are for grain, cats are for simple, rich prey.

Between 4,200 and 2,300 years ago, a group of early farmers from Central Asia moved to Europe, where they interacted with hunter-gatherers who already lived there. Some wildcats are marked; archaeologists discovered the skeletons of Near Eastern wildcats in Poland at about the same time. Nikolai Copernicus University archaeologist Magdalena Krajcarz and her colleagues said the cats were not really traveling versus Humans-they just hunt down prey. (This parameter sounds a bit like a cat wrote.)

Krajcarz and her colleagues examined the skeletal chemical composition of six Near Eastern wild cats found in southern Poland. As nutrients are transferred up the food chain, nitrogen 15 is transferred more than other stable nitrogen isotopes (nitrogen 14), so the ratio between them can suggest what the animal is eating. Domestic crops are also often rich in No. 15 nitrogen, because it is used as a fertilizer to add fertilizer, so the high proportion of No. 15 nitrogen can also imply a diet rich in domestic crops or dietary animal meat.

Nitrogen 15 levels are high in Near East cats. But more importantly, the cat’s level is very close to the level of nitrogen 15 in the bones of local herbivores. It is a molecular version of a smoking gun, indicating that about 75% to 95% of the cat’s menu is rodents that feed on farmers’ crops and food stores.

In the farm

However, when Krajcarz and her colleagues compared cats with domestic dogs of ancient people and nearby residential areas (such as Bronnocece), they found that the nitrogen levels of humans and dogs were even higher than The cat is taller. This shows that people are eating, based almost entirely on crops, and sharing food with canines.

On the other hand, cats seem to live near settlements and take advantage of things that are adjacent to humans, such as exposure to a lot of sat mice. Their nitrogen 15 value is slightly lower (but still very high), indicating that they mainly feed on crop pests, but also prey on other types of prey.

Ecologists call this way of life a community, and today you can see it among modern urban foxes, coyotes, raccoons and crows. For cats, fit is a step of domestication-of course, in terms of it. The earliest cat remains found in human settlements can be traced back to 3,000 years after the Roman era in Poland, and their nitrogen 15 content is closer to humans and dogs.

When the first Near Eastern wildcats followed farmers into Europe, they found that they had split their niche with the European wildcats that already lived there. The European wild cat skeleton Krajcarz and her colleagues have found that the nitrogen 15 level is similar to that of Near Eastern cats, but it is more widely distributed. This shows that although the Near East cats mainly feed on crop pests and diseases, European cats only add rodents that eat crops to the local menu. Perhaps this part explains why Near Eastern cats, rather than European cats, were eventually domesticated.

Reflecting paw

Six Near Eastern cats Krajcarz and her colleagues looked at them, all from a cave in the mountain overlooking the fertile lowlands where people were cultivating. They seemed to eventually die in the cave, either because they lived and died there, or because the larger predators dragged them to their homes as snacks. People live in the highlands, which are smaller and more sparse than the agricultural settlements in the valley below. But there is no evidence that they buried the cat.

These caves are 30 to 45 kilometers (19 to 28 miles) from large agricultural settlements near the valley. This implies the range of these six cats, but many things do not tell us. Archaeologists have not found cat bones in any Neolithic settlements in Poland, so there is no evidence to tell us whether cats live and hunt closer to humans, or whether cats actually live in human homes or food storage structures in.

PNAS, 2020 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1918884117 (about DOI).


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