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Unread 04-15-2007   #1 (permalink)
Hoedit
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Default If feral cats cannot inbreed, does that mean felis domesticus is one breed?

Which would mean felis domesticus are all one species and have same genetic code?
 
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Unread 04-15-2007   #2 (permalink)
Billy Butthead
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There is no reason that they can't inbreed. Of course if you want them for pets you had better stay with home tabby
 
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Unread 04-15-2007   #3 (permalink)
ma_tt_00
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Not necessarily. This is a very very complex topic to address, but I'll try to tackle it as well as possible, but be prepared for a lengthy read. To begin, you need a bit of background info on genetics, evolution, and the development of new species. First thing to explain is the difference between inbreeding and interbreeding, which is what you meant in your question. Inbreeding refers to incest. Interbreeding refers to the ability - or lack thereof - for one species to breed with another. The next step is to identify the type of speciation. In this case, it would be parapatric speciation (not to be confused with peripatric speciation), based on the criteria that they are not geographically isolated, their niches are not isolated from each other, however they each do have adjacent niches in the same geographical area. The reason we needed to know the type of speciation, is to accuately answer the question of why they can't breed together. In the case of, for example, the famous fruit fly experiment of 1989, and its many reproductions since, one species of fruit fly was separated from another and fed a different type of food. After 8 generations, the each control group had adapted specifically to the kind of food they had been fed, and were no longer able to mate with each other, when they once had the same origin. This would seem like evolution is contradictory to common sense, but let's think about why it would happen: A fruit fly is a fly that has already evolved to follow a niche, that of fruit. Their body chemistry speciated to allow them to make the most out of the resource that was most in abundance in their environment. When those fruit flies were given only one certain type of food (one was starch, one was maltose), after so many generations of having only to deal with the one, their body chemistries gradually changed to eliminate the genetic "waste" of being able to process a food that - as far as they knew - went extinct. The gradual adaptation to circumstances eventually causes the speciation to diversify to the point that they are no longer genetically compatible, because their inherent genetic traits become contradictory. Now, on to your cats: Bearing in mind what was just covered, the domestic cat and the feral cat experience contradictory climates, eating habits and preferences, and temperaments. In the case of parapatric speciation, the two niches do not experience enough random interaction to propagate a long-term preservation of similar characteristics. Thus, over time, the feral cats become speciated toward harsher climates, scavenging eating habits, more predatory instincts, and a way of life centered around self-preservation. They begin to specialize their genetic code to these situations over time. Meanwhile, the average housecat speciates into the polar opposite of these traits. Nearly all breeds of housecats are speciated to these same specifications, while nearly all feral cats are speciated to the opposite. In time, they share a common ancestry, and will retain the characteristics of similar breeds, and may be nearly physically identical in some cases. However, the primary difference lies in their genetic predispositions. In short, it comes down to the genetic degrees of separation from the common ancestry. The more different their environments, no matter how geographically similar, the more profound the speciation. Not all housecats are from the same breed, but they've speciated along such close lines that they're capable of interbreeding, while they are no longer capable of interbreeding with feral cats. This is not without exception; a second or third generation feral cat may still be able to interbreed with a housecat. What I mean by this, is the grandkittens of a housecat abandoned may be able to still rejoin its prior niche. But a feral cat from a long line of feral cats is a feral cat forevermore.
 
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Unread 04-15-2007   #4 (permalink)
Jeff Sadler
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Before I tackle this I would like to know who did research that says feral cats can not breed with house cats. I am curious since I know of many feral cats such as the Maine coon cat that have indeed been redomesticated and re-bred into felis domesticus. I am not aware of populations that can not interbreed, and am suspicous of research to the contrary.
 
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