UC-Davis researchers map feline family tree, warn against inbreeding

UC-Davis researchers map feline family tree, warn against inbreeding

Jan 29, 2008
By dvm360.com staff

Davis, Calif. - 1/29/08 - New research indicates a loss of genetic diversity associated with the long-term development of foundation cat breeds - those breeds that provided the genetic basis from which modern pure breeds were developed.

That finding comes with a warning from University of California-Davis (UC-Davis) researchers to cat fanciers: Be cautious while developing new breeds. Make sure to maintain a broad genetic base that will minimize introduction of genetically based health problems and disease.

The study, titled "The ascent of cat breeds: Genetic evaluations of breeds and worldwide random-bred populations," is featured on the January cover of Genomics . Study data confirms earlier research suggesting the ancestry of all modern domestic cats leads back to the Middle East's Fertile Crescent, which stretches from Turkey to northern Africa and eastward to Iraq and Iran.

The research, lead by Dr. Monika Lipinski, a doctoral candidate in the UC-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine , involved DNA samples from more than 11,000 felines representing 17 populations of randomly bred cats from Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia, Africa and the Americas, as well as 22 recognized breeds. From the analysis, researchers found that the cats were genetically clustered in four groups that correspond with regions in Europe, the Mediterranean basin, east Africa and Asia.

The National Institutes of Health, Winn Feline Foundation and George and Phyllis Miller Feline Health Fund funded the study. The Center for Companion Animal Health and the Koret Center of Veterinary Genetics, both within the UC-Davis veterinary school, also supported the work.