TechDiscovering the missing link in evolution through cat pictures

Discovering the missing link in evolution through cat pictures

The cat should not have green eyes. But it often does.
The cat should not have green eyes. But it often does.
Images source: © Licensor
6:38 AM EST, December 4, 2023

Browsing cat pictures on the internet has proven to be not only enjoyable but also educational. In an unexpected discovery, researchers found that domestic cats shouldn't theoretically have green, grey, or blue eyes. This finding led them to uncover a missing link in evolution. Although the research pertains to the evolution of cats, it carries significant implications.

The scientific survey of cat eye colors began with photographs of cats found online. Julius Tabin, a doctoral student at Harvard University, commenced his statistical studies in this unique way and was led to intriguing results. The current variety in eye colors among the feline family, it appears, is somewhat unusual.

Brown Eyes: The Norm Among Cats?

In the modern cat population, brown, grey, yellow, green, and blue eyes are all extensively prevalent. However, if we consider their closest relatives, including linsangs, hyenas, and genets, brown eyes are the norm, suggesting an evolutionary hint.

Eye color in cats is determined by the concentration of two pigments: eumelanin and pheomelanin. Brown eyes are loaded with eumelanin, whereas high levels of pheomelanin result in yellow eyes.

Interestingly, moderate degrees of these pigments yield grey-eyed felines. Blue and green eye colors manifest in cats that have a short supply of both eumelanin and pheomelanin. Consequently, green, blue, and gray-eyed cats ought to be anomalies, but today's population suggests otherwise.

Understanding the Enigma of Grey Eyes in Cats

Researchers decided to map an evolutionary model for cat species to determine the eye colors of their predecessors using the data collected from current cats and the established evolutionary relationships between the living and extinct felines.

The findings indicate that brown eyes dominated the feline world for a significant period until the emergence of the Felidae cat family millions of years ago, marking the beginning of an eye color change in felines.

The authors of the study suggest a genetic mutation that might have induced a drop in eumelanin levels, leading to the birth of the first grey-eyed feline. The cause behind modern cats with green or blue eyes remains unknown, indicating a need for more in-depth studies on feline gazes in the future.

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