London, Sep 21 (IANS) With the help of a newly-discovered animal gene, the US scientists appear to be closer to unravel the mystery behind origin of cats' stripes.
The gene may explain how the common housecat comes to have a blotchy or stripey tabby fur pattern. Scientists have found new DNA evidence which begins to solve the mystery of coat patterns in mammals.
The recently-found gene is one of several that collaborate to create the distinctive design of a cat's coat, and it's the first of the pattern genes to be identified, Daily Mail reported. The discovery could also solve the mystery about fur markings on cheetahs and zebras.
The scientists analysed the DNA of wild cats in northern California, as well as that of captive and wild cheetahs. They also looked at the DNA of a rare striped 'king cheetah' from South Africa. The study led to a gene called Taqpep by the scientists.
Cats with narrow stripes, the so-called 'mackerel' pattern, have a working copy of the gene. But if a mutation turns the gene off, the cat ends up with the blotchy 'classic' pattern, researchers said.
Scientists believe the same genes could give rise to stripes, blotches and spots on many mammals including zebras and tigers.