Wednesday 16 December 2015

Where did Australian cats come from?

Date:December 4, 2015
Source:BioMed Central

Researchers have found that cats in Australia are most likely descended from those brought by European settlers. Feral cats found on the islands surrounding Australia may represent founding populations from Europe, introduced in the 19th century, according to research published in open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology. Identifying the timing of the founding of these cat populations increases our knowledge of the effects this invasive species had when introduced to Australia.

Feral cats (cats that are free-living and independent of humans, but are descended from those that did rely on humans) have established invasive populations over large geographic areas of Australia. There has been much debate about how they arrived in Australia. Cats were often transported on sailing vessels as a means of controlling rodents or as pets, initially on board and then in new settlements. One theory suggests that cats arrived in Australia with European explorers in the late 18th century. Another hypothesis is that cats accompanied Malaysian trepangers -- fishers of sea cucumbers -- to Northern Australia in around 1650.

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