See Inside July 2007

The Evolution Cats

Genomic paw prints in the DNA of the worlds wild cats have clarified the cat family tree and uncovered several remarkable migrations in their past

A Sense of Order

A Sense of Order

We immediately noticed that the DNA studies seemed to group the 37 species into eight distinct clusters, or “lineages.” We were fascinated—and encouraged—to see that the eight groups defined exclusively by molecular analysis agreed with other kinds of observations, such as that species in one lineage often shared morphological, biological and physiological characteristics found only in their group. For example, one lineage contains all the great roaring cats (lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar and snow leopard). An incompletely ossified hyoid, a bone in the neck that supports the tongue, is what allows them to roar. Also in this group are the clouded leopard and the Bornean clouded leopard, little-known midsize cat species with a beautiful marbled coat; because they have a somewhat different bone structure in the neck, they cannot roar.

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