Monday, April 8, 2024

Bengal Cat Coats Are Less Wild Than They Look, Genetic Study Finds

Sarah C.P. Williams, from Stanford Medicine, writes that Bengal cats have marbled and spotted coats that make them look like smaller versions of jungle cats. It was assumed that the coats they have come from genes of Asian leopard cats that were bred with house cats, but now researchers are finding new evidence for another reason. They have discovered that their coat can be traced back to domestic cat genes that were aggressively selected for after cats were bred with wild cats. The appearance of the Bengal cat has always been present in domestic cat and through breeding they were able to bring the genes out. 

Cats are a good subject to use when studying how genetic variation leads to variation in appearance.  Asian leopard cat species Prionailurus bengalensis was crossed with domestic cats to create a new breed. Over many generations, cats with desired traits were selectively bred. Bengals were an interesting subject to study because they a recent genetic origin and unique appearance. This information is incredibly valuable to breeders because they will be able to “fine-tune” the way they breed animals to create new colors and patterns. Breeders are contributing their cats’ DNA for the study and want to be part of the data analysis as they are interested in learning more about their cat. Artificial selection is powerful, and research are just starting to realize this as they have discovered that Bengal cat coats could have possibly been selected without the help of the Asian leopard cat. 

As someone with an interest and a love for cats reading this article was intriguing. I never would have thought that the reason for the Bengals coats wasn’t because they were being bred from Asian leopard cats. It was interesting to learn that the coat colors came from the domestic cat and the genes were coaxed from specific breeding. 

1 comment:

  1. I also love cats! So this post caught my attention- it was really interesting to learn that Bengal's coats are actually from selective breeding, makes me wonder what else is from selective breeding of domestic animals that we don't exactly recognize. This article really shows the power of breeding for certain genetic features.