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Genetic Linkage

Why Cats Sniff Each Other's Butts

Anyone who lives with more than one member of Felis catus knows that our beloved felines love to smell each other's anal regions. Now a research team from the Department of Evolution and Ecology and Genome Center University of California, Davis, explains why, with their cataloging of the microbiomes of domestic cat anal glands. The bacterial members of the microbiome produce and release organic compounds that affect the behavior of another cat. The findings are published in Scientific Reports.


A microbiome is the collection of microbes that live in or on an organism. The microbiome accounts for 90 percent of a person's cells, packed in because bacterial cells are so much smaller than ours. These microscopic residents live under our arms, between our toes and butt cheeks, in our guts and noses and spleens and eyebrows and, well, everywhere.


The new cat study compared the DNA sequences of a gene commonly used in evolutionary investigations, to identify bacterial species residing in domestic feline anal glands. The investigators also identified the "volatile organic compounds" (VOCs) that the anal glands emit, thanks to those microbes. The study evaluated anal gland emissions of several other mammals, including dogs, hyenas, foxes, pandas, and of course humans.


An Explanation from Microbiology


To continue reading, go to DNA Science, where this post first appeared.

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Breeding Better Butternut Squash – and a Recipe

After a long career as a science writer, textbook author, and genetic counselor, I've become an accidental authority on squashes.


I began volunteering at the largest food pantry in my small city in June 2020, where my husband Larry had been in charge of the plant and fungal kingdoms for years. It was the height of the pandemic. So gloved and masked, we shoved fruits and veggies into plastic bags, filled shopping carts with the bags, and wheeled them over to a window at which another masked, gloved volunteer quickly pushed the bags to the clients waiting outside.


Like most activities back then without human contact, it wasn't much fun.


Nowadays, Larry and I help the clients choose fruits and veggies, and I share cooking and storage tips as well as recipes. I love the challenge of figuring out how to prepare something unfamiliar – plantains, Jerusalem artichokes, broccoli rabe.  


My favorite client is a 95-year-old Ukrainian woman. I know which days she'll show up with her helper, so I assemble bags of bountiful beets so she can make borsht for her congregation. Schenectady has a large Guyanese community, and the ladies with whom I share tips and recipes call me "mommy." I tell our Black clients how to make stuffed cabbage; they share how to cook collards.


But I'm still a biologist at heart. Here at DNA Science a few years ago, I shared The Peaceable Genomes of Pumpkins.


For this year's Thanksgiving post, I came upon an article, Genomic Prediction and Selection for Fruit Traits in Winter Squash, published in G3: Genes, Genomes, and Genetics, from Michael R Mazourek of Cornell University and colleagues, from 2020.


To continue reading, go to DNA Science, where this post first appeared.



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