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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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