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The domestic cat has proved to be one of the most successful animals on the planet, managing to capitalise on its close relations with humans to colonise every continent except Antarctica.

据证实,被驯化的猫是全球和人类关系最亲密的动物之一,除了南极洲,驯化猫的足迹踏遍世界各地。

Now scientists have discovered that many of today’s Felis silvestris lybica are descended from cats who lived thousands of years ago in Ancient Egypt.

最近科学家发现,今天的非洲野猫大部分是千万年前古埃及猫的后代。

Using genetic analysis, the researchers established that cats were first domesticated in the Near East about 10,000 years ago, probably by farmers because of feline skills in dealing with mice and other rodents that raid grain stores. A complete cat skeleton dated to 7,500BC was found associated with a human burial site on the island of Cyprus. However, it was not until several thousand years later that cats really began the journey that would take them to every corner of the globe.

研究员通过基因分析明确了猫最早被驯化大约在一万年前的近东地区,可能是农民因为猫会抓老鼠和其他侵害粮仓的动物,所以驯养了猫。此前,在塞浦路斯岛人的坟墓处曾发现一架与之相关的完整猫骨架,这副骨架可追溯到公元前7,500年。然而,几千年后,猫才开始席卷全球。

In Ancient Egypt, cats and humans developed a remarkably close relationship as shown by numerous depictions in art from around 2,000BC.

大约在公元前2,000年,古埃及大量的画作上曾经展示了猫和人有着亲密无间的关系。

And it appears something about these Egyptian cats made them particularly appealing and they started to spread into Europe.

这也表明,这些埃及猫之所以独特是有原因的,埃及猫正是因为这个原因得以踏上欧洲大陆。

“The increasing popularity of cats among Mediterranean cultures and particularly their usefulness on ships infested with rodents and other pests presumably triggered their dispersal across the Mediterranean,” the researchers wrote in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

有研究员在《自然-生态学与进化》(Nature Ecology & Evolution)中提到,“地中海文化中涉猎猫的部分越来越多,猫抓捕老鼠类动物的特性在船上格外有用,这些都可能推动猫在地中海地区的扩散。

“Indeed, depictions of cats in domestic contexts, already frequent during the New Kingdom in Egypt around 1500BC, [such as] ‘cat under the chair’, are found on Greek artefacts from as early as the end of the 6th century BC. 大约公元前1500年,在埃及新国王时期,看到驯化猫的叙述,比如像“椅子下的猫”这样的说法,已经不是新鲜事了。早在公元前6世纪末,希腊手工艺品中就能看到这样的叙述。

“The Egyptian cat must have been very popular, as [two different strains] represented more than half of the maternal lineages in Western Anatolia during the 1st millennium AD, and occurred twice as frequently as the local [strain].

“埃及猫以前肯定很受欢迎。1000年,安纳托利亚西部出现了两种猫,多半遗传自母系,数量是当地猫的两倍。”

“This suggests that the Egyptian cat had properties that made it attractive to humans, presumably acquired during the tightening of the human-cat relationship that developed during the Middle and New Kingdoms [of Egypt] and became even stronger afterwards.”

“这表明埃及猫具有吸引人类的特性。可能是在埃及中新国王时期,人猫关系增进时产生的,这种特性在那之后逐渐得到强化。”

The researchers said the most pronounced genetic changes that distinguish wild from domestic cats were “apparently linked to behaviour” – something that anyone who has met a Scottish wildcat would readily confirm.

研究员说,区分野猫和被驯化的猫最明显的基因变化是那些“与行为有直观联系”的基因,见过苏格兰野猫的人就能够认同这一说法。

“It is tempting to speculate that the success of the Egyptian cat is underlain by changes in its sociability and tameness,” they wrote in the paper.

文章中说:“很难不去推测埃及猫的普及是因为它在社交和驯化方面发生了变化。”

Domestic cats appeared north of the European Alps “soon after the Roman conquest” but are thought to have been absent from outside the Empire until it started to collapse. Feline expansion then received another boost from sailors.

罗马入侵后不久,被驯化的猫就出现在了欧洲阿尔卑斯山北部,但是据说,直到罗马帝国沦亡,被驯化的猫才开始出现在其他地区。之后猫在水手中受到了广泛欢迎。

“In medieval times it was compulsory for seafarers to have cats onboard their ships, leading to their dispersal across routes of trade and warfare,” the researchers wrote.

研究员说:“在中世纪,水手的船上必须有猫,贸易和战事路线将猫带往了世界各地。”

“This evidence explains, for example, the presence of [a cat with an Egyptian lineage] at the Viking port of Ralswiek, dated between the seventh and 11th century AD.”

“证据表明,在7世纪到11世纪,拉尔斯维克镇的海盗码头(Viking port of Ralswiek)上出现过有埃及血统的猫。”

The same boats also spread black rats and house mice in significant numbers which “probably also encouraged cat dispersal for the control of these new pests”.

搭载着猫的船只同样将屋顶鼠和家鼠带往世界各地,它们数量庞大,却也“可能推动了猫的扩散,去控制那些有害的东西。”

Summing up their findings, the international team of scientists, led by Belgian paleogeneticist Claudio Ottoni, wrote that “both the Near Eastern and Egyptian populations of Felis silvestris lybica contributed to the gene pool of the domestic cat at different historical times”.

比利时古遗传学家克劳迪奥·安托尼(Claudio Ottoni)带领世界各地的科学家对上述结果做了汇总,在结论中写到:“非洲野猫在近东和埃及的出现改变着不同历史时期被驯化猫的基因池。”

“While the cat’s worldwide conquest began during the Neolithic period in the Near East, its dispersal gained momentum during the Classical period, when the Egyptian cat successfully spread throughout the Old World,” they said.

科学家说:“尽管猫在世界各地的出现始于新石器时代的近东,但是猫加速扩散却发生在古典时期,当时埃及猫成功‘占领’了旧大陆。”

文章来源:沪江英语

图片来源:高品图像


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