Tag Archives: cats

Cats vs dogs in genome research

After an initial focus on studying the genomes of dogs, genetics researchers are now switching to cats.

After the completion of the human, mouse and rat genomes, the US National Institutes of Health organized a commission to decide on their next target; the dog genome was selected for high-quality sequencing, whereas cats were put on hold.

That got some cat geneticists’ backs up. “The truth is there were more powerful people interested in dogs,” says Stephen O’Brien, director of the Theodosius Dobzhansky Center for Genome Bioinformatics in St Petersburg, Russia, who led the initial cat-sequencing efforts.

There is now a project which, for only $7,500, allows scientists to map the genome of any cat for the cause of science. Under this program, they’ve already done 56 cats, including a kitten and her parents.

A new housecat-sized feline species has been discovered in Brazil.

A new housecat-sized feline species has been discovered in Brazil.

Oncillas are housecat-size felines found throughout much of South America, and are also known as little tiger cats, little spotted cats or tigrinas. But not all oncillas are the same: New research suggests that little tiger cats in northeastern Brazil belong to a different species from those elsewhere on the continent, although they look virtually identical.

Researchers analyzed the genetic material of oncillas in northeastern Brazil, and compared them with nearby populations in the south. They found that there was no flow of genes between the two populations of oncillas, and hasn’t been any for millennia, according to the study, published today (Nov. 27) in the journal Current Biology.

This, along with other genetic differences, led researchers to conclude the two populations do not interbreed and are in fact different species, said study co-author Eduardo Eizirik, a researcher at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.

Cat purrs prevent heart attacks

Research has now shown that the purr of a cat appears to prevent heart attacks.

A 10-year study at the University of Minnesota Stroke Center found that cat owners were 40 per cent less likely to have heart attacks than non-cat owners. A cat at home reduced the risk of other heart diseases and stroke by 30 per cent.

But then, all cat owners have always known this.

Wildlife Biologist Found Guilty of Attempting to Poison Feral Cats

Another scientist who doesn’t understand science: A former biologist at the Smithsonian National Zoo’s Migratory Bird Center has been found guilty of attempting to poison feral cats in Washington, DC.

It isn’t her crime here that disturbs me. It is her own research and testimony during her trial:

In addition to the videotaped evidence, prosecutors also introduced evidence that Dauphiné has a long history advocating in academic literature for the control of feral cat populations in order to protect native bird populations. In one paper, in the 2009 Proceedings of the Fourth International Partners in Flight Conference: Tundra to Tropics, Dauphiné and co-author Robert J. Cooper, a wildlife biologist at the University of Georgia in Athens, argue that feral cats kill upwards of 1 billion birds in the United States every year. They also argue that the “trap-neuter-release” model for population control, which is advocated by many animal rights organizations, does a poor job of managing feral cat populations.

Yesterday, Judge Truman A. Morrison III noted in his remarks that, during Dauphiné’s testimony during the trial, she declined to discuss whether she agreed with various academic papers on which she was listed as an author, and said she wasn’t familiar with many of their statements about the danger that feral cats pose to birds. In delivering his verdict, Morrison said that the notion that Dauphiné wouldn’t be familiar with papers she authored or co-authored “doesn’t have the ring of the truth.” He also “found that her inability, indeed her unwillingness to own up to her own professional writings … undermined her credibility.” [emphasis mine]

First, the claim that feral cats kill a billion birds a year in the U.S. seems extremely implausible. Second, for this scientist to then pretend she “wasn’t familiar” with this claim, written in her own work, tells us just how untrustworthy she and her work are.

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