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Genetic Engineering a Fictional Critter

My caticorn is either seriously alien, or genetically modified

Pets in space caticorn

It’s a caticorn!

We are closing in on the release of Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3! I’m going to pause here to let my heartbeat return to normal. I always get so excited in the runup, okay, I got excited the last two times, so that is always, isn’t it? 

One of the fun, and yes, challenging things, is picking a pet, which I delved into more in this post here. 

My caticorn is either seriously alien or genetically modified, so I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what is happening in with genetic modification right now. 

Humans are already involved in the genetic modifications of cats.

Some are trying to make cats that people aren’t allergic to and there is work ongoing to make them not hunt, so your cat won’t lay a dead bird or mouse at your feet.

We’ve created glow in the dark cats. 

Yes, you read that right. 

The scientists inserted one gene in the cats that helps them resist the feline form of Aids into feline eggs known as oocytes. For some reason, they also implanted a gene into the eggs that generates GFP—a fluorescent protein produced naturally in jellyfish. 

Okay, they had a reason. It’s used in research of this type, so scientist can mark cells by just looking under a microscope or shining a light on the cat to monitor the activity of altered genes. The method worked, most of the offspring of the modified eggs had the restriction factor genes, and these proteins were produced throughout the cats’ bodies.

So we are doing genetic modifications on cats but we haven’t tried to make a catacorn…yet. 

Now, three are some different species of animals that have bred. But it does rather stretch the imagination to consider how a cat and fish or a cat and rhinoceros can get together without some genetic manipulation in a lab.  

There is one hybrid breed that involved a domestic cat. They call this hybrid a Bengal: Felis silvestris x Prionailurus bengalensis, and it was created by human intervention in the United States in the 60s. 

Its parents are usually a male leopard cat, also known as a Bengal cat or Asian leopard, and a female domestic cat. This species is sought after as a pet because, although its big and looks wild, it’s quite docile. But, hybrids are usually sterile so they can’t propagate their species. 

But back to creating a caticorn, someone could, in theory, take the genes from a Rhinoceros that cause the growth of the horn on the its head, then add those genes to the right places in the DNA of a cat. 

But keep in mind that genetically engineering animals isn’t’ easy. The problem is that the major features of an animal, like a horn, are not controlled by a single gene. A horn is affected by an interacting network of hundreds of genes. We’d have to find every single gene that has to do with the horn, then learn how they all interact with each other. After that, we’d have to put all those genes into a cat without disturbing the complex network of gene interactions of the feline.

Two horned animals we might consider for this is the unicornfish, or a rhinosours. One of many problems with this is that the narwhal or unicorn fish is a fish and a cat’s a mammal. We can’t breed two unrelated species at this time. But it might be possible in the distant future. 

Another issue is that even though the extended, pointed thing on the narwhal’s brow looks like a horn it isn’t. It’s a tooth. Would it then be a catitooth? 

Now let’s consider the extinct rhinoceros that is often called the siberian unicorn, the elasmotherium sibiricum. They were shaggy, giant mammals with slender legs and a single horn. They roamed earth  29,000 years ago. They looked somewhat like horses. 

Keep in mind though, kind of like with the narwhal, the rhinoceros including the extinct elasmotherium sibiricum don’t have actual horns, the things on their foreheads have a different composition and structure.

So maybe one day we might be able to make a caticorn if we really want to but we’re not ready for that yet. 

But apparently, the aliens in my books were. The fictional aliens. 

But it does make one think and wonder…does it not?

To learn more about my caticorn in Operation Ark, be sure to preorder Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3It releases Oct 9!

Perilously yours,

Pauline

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