Stories tagged Middle East

Jul
06
2008

Or at least your genes. A new study has found that men in Arab countries carry two different versions of a gene set called “Haplogroup J.” Those with one set come from wetter lands, and are descended from farmers. Those with the other set come from drier lands, and are descended from herders. Scientists speculate that climate change in the Middle East some 11,000 years ago split the population in two. As lands grew drier, some people were still able to farm, but others had to give up the farm and turned to sheep herding and similar pursuits. The two groups didn’t mix much thereafter, and eventually evolved slightly different genes.

The division of the population into two groups also affected material culture, such as the pottery each produced; lifestyle; and possibly even religion.

Jun
28
2007

Wild origins: A recent study of DNA shows that our tamed domestic cats of today likely came from wild cats that roamed the deserts of the Middle East some 100,000 years ago. (Photo by grafwilliam)
Wild origins: A recent study of DNA shows that our tamed domestic cats of today likely came from wild cats that roamed the deserts of the Middle East some 100,000 years ago. (Photo by grafwilliam)
I have a neighbor with a cat that’s quasi tame/wild. It hunts down a collection of little critters in the neighborhood for fun and food. But it also has the most domesticated practices of politely asking to enter the home or wanting to be petted.

New research now shows that our house cats of today have a lot in common with their wild ancestors with links that go to wild cats from the Middle East some 100,000 years ago.

This is all interesting and historical news, right? But what does it have to do with science today? A lot actually. Medical research for human ailments like polycystic kidney disease and retinal atrophy can be modeled through these same cats.

Through genetic analysis, the researchers have found that today’s cats have a lot in common with five types of wild cats from the Middle East. Through interbreeding over the years, those five cats produced the line of cats that today are found as pets in our homes.

Wild cats found in Israel, United Arab Emerites, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have similar DNA to our western tamed cats. And the thinking is that cats started to be tamed by humans around 10,000 to 12,000 years ago when humans began a farming economy. The cats were used to hunt down rodents that otherwise would try to eat away at the grains being stored from the harvest. Archeological evidence of cats living with people dates back about 9,500 years to the island of Cyprus.

Researchers think that these early Mid-Eastern cats might provide a pretty “pure” gene pool to analyze as well, since those cats lived in isolated desert areas and wouldn’t have had the chance to interbreed with too many other cat species.