To say the Internet is full of cute cats is an understatement. But some social media-famous felines are a bit more recognizable than others — like Lil Bub. This cat is certainly cute, with short legs, no teeth, extra toes on each paw, and a tongue that sticks out. And while she has yet to penetrate the world of Hollywood, the largest film industry in the world, she has over two million followers on Instagram alone. And now, with the help of a few dedicated scientists, the world knows what makes Lil Bub look so special.
What gives Lil Bub her unique appearance is literally in her DNA. Thanks to Dario Lupianez and an international team of molecular biologists, we now know that Lil Bub is actually somehow related to the polydactyl cats that live in Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West, Florida.
Her DNA also shows a mutation in a gene called RANK/TNFRSF11A, which has been found in only 15 humans and one mouse, all of whom share similar physical features as the cat. This mutation causes the bones to harden quickly and become deformed — although that doesn’t stop Lil Bub from running and jumping as cats like to do.
The researchers who conducted the study on Bub’s DNA spent four years crowdfunding the money needed to sequence the cat’s genome. And while 98% of all crowdfunding contributions come through Facebook, the researchers started a blog and made fun videos to attract attention and get the money they needed.
After learning about Lil Bub’s unique features, the team of scientists knew they had to get their hands on a sample of her DNA. And while they have yet to actually meet her, or her owner, in person, her owner was excited to help.
Lil Bub’s owner Mike Bridavsky, happily sent the researchers a sample of Bub’s blood after receiving an email from the eager scientists.
Commenting on the test results, Bridavsky explained, “She’s quite literally one in infinity, you could say, as far as a genetic anomaly. I personally was convinced that they would find that her DNA was not from our planet, which is what I was hoping for, or there was some crazy prehistoric DNA – that she was part dinosaur.”
Since Bridavsky found Bub in a tool shed shortly after she had been born in 2011, the two have been inseparable since.
So while Lil Bub is not part alien, as far as we know, she is certainly cute with an interesting background for a little orphan kitty.