Short Takes

February 2013 Issue

How did the tabby and cheetah get their stripes?

Researchers gathered DNA and tissue samples from feral cats in Northern California. They also studied skin biopsies and blood samples from captive and wild South African and Namibian cheetahs, and in a study believed to the first to identify a molecular basis of coat pattering in mammals, they made this discovery: Tabby cats and rare king cheetahs share a gene responsible for the cats’ stripes and the cheetahs’ spots. However, when a mutation occurs, the tabby will develop patches of color rather than stripes, and the cheetah’s spots and blotches turn into wide stripes down its back.

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