Evolution

Affiliative Felids

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Science  05 Apr 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5565, pp. 15
DOI: 10.1126/science.296.5565.15a

Humans have domesticated fewer than 10 animal species. It remains uncertain whether this small number reflects the rarity of susceptibility or “preadaptation” to domestication on the part of animals, or simply satiation on the part of humans. Cameron-Beaumont et al. investigated the degree of preadaptation among the smaller members of the cat family (Felidae), using tactile behavior (rubbing and licking) toward humans by zoo-bred animals as an indicator. Some lineages (lynx and Asian leopard groups) evinced a disinclination to affiliative behavior, whereas cats in the ocelot lineage were affectionate toward humans—more so, in fact, than domestic cats. It appears that the potential for tameness among felids is not evolutionarily restricted to the domestic cat, but that this relationship with humans was so successful that other human-felid alliances have never been contemplated, or perhaps have been stillborn because of behavioral incompatibilities.—AMS

Biol. J. Linn. Soc.75, 361 (2002).

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