By: Jennifer Welsh, LiveScience Staff Writer
Published: 03/12/2012 03:06 PM EDT on
Cats will ignore your sugary treats, but will literally jump onto the counter at the chance to scarf down some meaty goodness. The behavior stems from a missing sweet-taste receptor on their tongues, and now researchers have found some of their carnivore cousins in the wild, including sea lions and hyenas, also lack the taste for sweetness.
Other carnivores, like bears, retain the sweetness receptor on their taste buds (causing Pooh Bear to keep getting his hand stuck in that honey pot), which might be because of their flexible diets, the researchers added.
If you primarily eat meat, there isnt a need to detect carbohydrates [like sugars and starches], so there is no need to keep this receptor intact, study researcher Peihua Jiang, of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, a nonprofit scientific research institute in Philadelphia dedicated to the senses of taste and smell, told LiveScience.
Scientists have known since 2006 that domestic cats are missing the sweetness receptor; the study, published today (March 12) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, extends that research. Jiang and colleagues looked at 12 different carnivores, from all different groups of animals, and analyzed their taste-receptor genes. [The 7 (Other) Flavors Humans May Taste]
We wanted to see if the cat is the exception or if this loss of taste is more widespread in the animal kingdom, Jiang said.