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Scientists at the Monell Center found that domestic and wild cats exhibit defects in a gene that controls their sweet taste receptors—rendering them essentially unable to taste sweet. Cats consume a meat-only diet, leading scientists to wonder if this mutation was a reflection of taste evolving to reflect eating habits. They tested other carnivorous animals and found that sea lion, fur seal, Pacific harbor seal, Asian otter, spotted hyena, fossa and banded lingsang all had damaged sweet taste receptors as well, while dolphins were missing sweet and umami taste receptors.
“Different animals live in different sensory worlds and this particularly applies to their worlds of food,” said Gary Beauchamp, a behaviorial biologist at Monell. “Our findings provide further evidence that what animals like to eat—and this includes humans—is dependent to a significant degree on their basic taste receptor biology.”