Saturday, January 07, 2006

A genetic taxonomy of cats

Carl Zimmer at The Loom talks about new work in the evolution of the cat family. The mighty sequencers used in the genomics efforts have been used to compare large amounts of sequence from many different cats. They take this purely genetic tree and try to propose how the modern cats emerged, taking into account divergences and migrations.

Carl points out that some of the highest profile paelontololgy results are coming out of genetics labs. (At least one expert that Carl consults is not too happy that they didn't try to relate the genetics to the fossil evidence).

In the comments section the issue is raised that even distantly related cats can interbreed. This is a topic I've been meaning to learn about myself-- that the base definition that two animals are of different species when they cannot mate must be supplemented with lots of shades of grey.

For more information about how sequence data are transforming paleontology, take a look at this list of newspaper articles from the great news aggregator SnowDeal.

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