Tuesday, 12 June 2007

The cat with 26 toes

Thanks to Janine for sending in this story about a VERY polydactyl cat. Last month I wrote about the evolution of five fingers and toes and the constraints on this arrangement. Though loss of digits is not an uncommon evolutionary change, gaining digits is very rare. It is a phenomenon seen in polydacyl cats; however, I don't think anyone understands why cats are able to increase the number of their digits without 'repercussions' to the rest of their patterning. Anyway, click here to read about the polydactyl cat who has 26 fingers and toes!

6 comments:

John Hopkin said...

I recall reading somewhere - perhaps in one of Stephen Jay Gould's books, perhaps "The Panda's Thumb" - that the number of toes mutates from the fifth (UK: little, US: pinky) "finger" towards the thumb. In other words, if you're going to gain an extra finger, it's going to be inside of your thumb, not as you'd intuitively expect, on the outer regions of your hand. Or paw, or whatever.

Can anyone confirm or deny this?

Also, Sarda, if you're ever stuck for something to tell us about in limbs, how about the evolution of the various limb stances: plantigrade, ungulugrade, digitigrade (unsure of spelling)? I'm curious about this, and how it fits in with the evolution of mammals.

For example, are all digitigrade mammals descended from a single ancestor, or has the hoof evolved multiple times?

This would be a welcome topic, at least for me. Just in case you're bored ...

Thanks,
John

Catherine, the redhead said...

It is sad when a cat has sexier looking feet than I do :-(

Sarda Sahney said...

John - thanks for the suggestion, watch this space:)

John Hopkin said...

I'll certainly watch this space - thanks. Well, I watch it anyway, so no change there!

And, reading back, I see I posted "For example, are all digitigrade mammals descended from a single ancestor, or has the hoof evolved multiple times?" D'oh! I meant "unguligrade", of course, assuming I'm spelling these words right ...

Marcus said...

I just grabbed a feral kitten from my back yard and discovered he has 26 toes; unlike Des of Felindre, my kitten has six on the front feet and seven on the rear feet. Pix here. It makes sense that a mutation that helps an animal catch food would continue to appear.

But my kitten has what almost constitute opposable thumbs. Gripping paws might come in "handy" for scavenger cats living near humans, as they are for racoons. My question: are cats evolving hands?

Beaman said...

I had a polydacyl cat. I think six toes on three feet and seven on a fourth foot.
His named was Oedipus, which as you probably know comes from the words 'swollen feet'.
That's what comes of having two English Lit' obsessed parents. :p