All the Cats in the World Except Fluffy and Silvester

It’s enormous fun to look at cat evolution, because you get to look at cats. Even people who don’t like pet cats are impressed by cheetahs, lions, and tigers.

Cheetah dramatic
How did life on Earth come up with something like this . . . and housecats and lions, too?

There are actually more cats out in the wild than most of us have ever dreamed of, including the gorgeous Asiatic golden cat shown at the top of this post.

Today we are going to look at all of them, except for Fluffy and its wildcat relatives. I’m saving them until next time for two reasons:

  • The biological line between housecats and their ancestors – the wildcats (one word) – is blurry, so we need to check them out all together.
  • We do need to talk about how cats evolved. Even though that happened to wild cats (two words) over millions of years, Fluffy’s history is helpful. Cat breeders have been intentionally messing with its genes for over a century. Is the process that has given us the tailless Manx and the bald Donskoy typical of all evolution? Tune in next time and find out!
Evolution of catcher(0)
Evolution would be great fun, too, if it worked like this. Sadly, it doesn’t, unless evolution is a lot weirder than experts think – and that’s very weird. Cats continue to play with toys and humans still must work their way through the bush leagues for a chance to play in The Show.

The following eight sections are based on the eight genetic lineages that DNA sequencing consistently shows in the cat family. (Johnson and others, 2006; Nyakatura and Bininda-Emonds)

They aren’t presented in the order in which each group evolved – those dates come out differently for different researchers. So far, I think, the only consensus is that there are eight lineages.

The pictures have all been generously donated to either Creative Commons or the public domain by many generous photographers.  Be sure to check out their links in the image credits at the end of this post!

Let’s start out with the lineage that contains the cat featured at the top of this post – the Asiatic golden cat, known locally as the “fire tiger.” (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)

Then we’ll check out the big cats and the other six lineages.
Continue reading All the Cats in the World Except Fluffy and Silvester