This is a little news story about hybrid cat DNA and cat species evolution. You won’t read it anywhere else. The story comes from Kathrin Stucki, who is a well know figure in the world of cats partly because, with her husband, Martin, she owns and manages A1 Savannahs in Oklahoma. A1 Savannahs is a very high profile breeder of Savannah cats and servals. They raised the famous Scarlett’s Magic, “the world’s tallest domestic cat“.
Kathrin knows a lot about cats in general and wild cat hybrids in particular. She wrote a very interesting article for PoC some years ago called Full Moon Kittens. Here is an extract:
“Martin, my husband, has the current moon phase displayed on his cell phone because he knows the night of the full moon will bring us babies…”
Anyway, Kathrin has been working on Hybrid Cat DNA. In this instance she refers to wild cat hybrids. These are domestic cats that are a product of the mating of a wild cat species, such as the serval, and a domestic cat.
Wild Cat Hybrid DNA
I can’t do much better than to quote Kathrin verbatim:
I had the opportunity to work at A&M University, Texas, in the Laboratory of Veterinary integrative Biosciences. I wanted to share some insight and thought you would possibly be interested to hear about it.
I moved into an extended stay and worked full-time in the laboratory, under the supervision of Professor William Murphy, who is world leading in the field of hybrid feline sterility research. The time in the lab, enabled me to work with my own cat’s DNA as well as that of cats from other hybrid breeders.
In preparation for this stay, I had collected DNA samples from all our breeding cats and kittens, including the Servals. For most cats we took the DNA through a cheek-swab, but for the Servals, we preferred to draw a blood sample.
Back in the lab, I learned how to extract the DNA from the blood of the wild and hybrid cats and I was able to amplify certain genes with the help of a PCR1. By comparing the genes of different Savannah cat generations as well as those of Serval, Asian leopard and Chausie cats, I was able to see the genetic differences and similarities of each species. A discovery that matched up with the experience I had with these cats in person.
On the same stay, I thawed skin cells from an Asian Leopard which were frozen in the ’80s. With careful nurturing and incubating of the at first lifeless cells, I was able to witness the miracle of mitosis2 and with it, the growing of new leopard skin tissue, right in front of my microscope viewer.
As a longtime Savannah cat breeder I am familiar with a little bit more than the basics of how it comes to the creating of a hybrid cat. But to be able to enter the sub-microscopic world of the genes of my own cats gave me a whole new understanding of the uniqueness of the Savannah cat breed.
In the attached graph (see above) that was created by my colleges at the A&M University, one can see the evolutionary development of different cat species. The time table shows the estimated time frame when individual feline species have evolved. The table shows that the Bengal cat’s ancestors are 3 Mio years3 apart while the evolutionary difference in the Savannah cat’s ancestor is 5.3 Mio years.
It is perhaps that differing genetic pool which makes the Savannah cat so unique not just in her appearance but also in her unusual sharp intellect.
- PCR stands for “polymerase chain reaction” as far as I am aware. It is the process of “generating thousands to millions of copies of a particular DNA sequence” (Wikipedia).
- A form of nuclear division – the word nuclear refers to the nucleus of an animal’s cells.
- MIO stands for Million