How the Tabby Got Its Stripes: It’s in the Genes

How the Tabby Got Its Stripes: It’s in the Genes

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How does a tabby cat earn its stripes? With the right DNA. Scientists say they’ve found the gene that sets the common tabby pattern — stripes or blotches. It’s one of several genes that collaborate to create the distinctive design of a cat’s coat, and it’s the first of the pattern genes to be identified.

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 reported online in the journal Science. The research team examined DNA from wild cats in California to identify the gene. They also found that a mutation in the same gene produces the blotches and stripes of the rare “king” cheetah, rather than the spots most cheetahs have.

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