The Science of Cats


This is a capstone-style course for upper level biology majors. This course will provide biology majors nearing graduation the opportunity to apply what they've learned in topics as diverse as speciation, molecular evolution, community ecology and animal behavior to investigate and analyze questions concerning the biology of a species near and dear to the hearts of many, Felis catus, the domestic cat. Over the last several decades, scientists have studied cats in the same way they have studied lizards, birds, flies and many other species. This cat research allows questions of broad scientific interest to be addressed using cutting-edge methods, including (but not limited to): what is a species? How do new species arise? How do we determine when, where and from what species the cat evolved? How do we determine if a trait (e.g., response to catnip) evolved as an adaptation driven by natural selection? How do we determine the impact of an invasive species on local ecosystems? How does domestication occur and is the cat actually domesticated? Is the behavior of domestic cats a legacy of their evolutionary past or does it represent adaptation to living with humans? What role, if any, can genetic engineering play in decreasing feral cat populations and developing new breeds of cats with desirable traits. Prerequisite: At least one of the following or permission of instructor: Biol 347, Biol 3501, Biol 370, Biol 381, Biol 4181, Biol 4182, Biol 4183, Biol 419, Biol 4195, Biol 472. Students interested in taking this course should email Professor Losos, indicating why they are interested in taking this course AND which of the prerequisite, or other relevant, courses they have taken. Enrollment preference will be given to senior level biology majors. Small Class. 3.0 units. Students are strongly encouraged to be available for a field trip to a cat show on the Sunday before classes begin (January 14, 2024).
Course Attributes: AS NSM

Section 01

The Science of Cats
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