Evolution of Mammals: Cat Family

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  • Topic: Felis, Felidae, Cat
  • Pages : 2 (644 words )
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  • Published : November 30, 2012
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The felids are a rapidly evolving family of mammals that share a common ancestor only 10–15 million years ago,[26] and include, in addition to the domestic cat, lions, tigers, cougars, and many others. Within this family, domestic cats (Felis catus) are part of the genus Felis, which is a group of small cats containing approximately seven species (depending upon classification scheme).[1][27] Members of the genus are found worldwide and include the jungle cat (Felis chaus) of southeast Asia, European wildcat (F. silvestris silvestris), African wildcat (F. s. lybica), the Chinese mountain cat (F. bieti), and the Arabian sand cat (F. margarita), among others.[28]

All the cats in this genus share a common ancestor that probably lived around 6–7 million years ago in Asia.[29] The exact relationships within the Felidae are close but still uncertain,[30][31] e.g. the Chinese mountain cat is sometimes classified (under the name Felis silvestris bieti) as a subspecies of the wildcat, like an African variety F. S. lybica.[4][30] As domestic cats are little altered from wildcats, they can readily interbreed. This hybridization poses a danger to the genetic distinctiveness of wildcat populations, particularly in Scotland and Hungary, and possibly also the Iberian Peninsula.[32]

The domestic cat was first classified as Felis catus by Carolus Linnaeus in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae in 1758.[1][3] However, because of modern phylogenetics, domestic cats are now usually regarded as another subspecies of the wildcat, Felis silvestris.[1][4][33] This has resulted in mixed usage of the terms, as the domestic cat can be called by its subspecies name, Felis silvestris catus.[1][4][33] Wildcats have also been referred to as various subspecies of F. catus,[33] but in 2003 the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature fixed the name for wildcats as F. silvestris.[34] The most common name in use for the domestic cat remains F. catus, following a convention...
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