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What Is A Chimera Cat?

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Venus the two-faced cat has taken the internet by storm. The explanation for why one side of her face is black with a green eye and the other is tabby with a blue eye? She's a chimera cat.
So what exactly is a chimera cat? Here are five facts: 
  • According to Geekologie.com, a chimera cat is one individual organism, but genetically its own fraternal twin.  The chimera is formed from the merging of two nonidentical twins, therefore they can be male, female, or hermaphroditic.
  • Most chimeras will go through life without realizing they are chimeras. The difference in phenotypes may be subtle (e.g., having a hitchhiker's thumb and a straight thumb, eyes of slightly different colors, differential hair growth on opposite sides of the body, etc.) or completely undetectable. 
  • A chimera is typically formed from four parent cells (either two fertilized eggs, or two early embryos that have fused together). When the organism forms, the cells that had already begun to develop in the separate embryos keep their original phenotypes and appearances -- resulting in a two-faced cat like Venus.
  • It can happen to humans too. In 1953 a human chimera was reported in the British Medical Journal. A woman was found to have blood containing two different blood types that apparently resulted from cells from her twin brother living in her body. Other such instances have been reported in the decade since.
  • Mice are used for research. Chimeric mice are important tools in biological research because scientists can investigate a variety of biological questions in an animal that has two distinct genetic pools within it -- like insights into the tissue specific requirements of a gene, cell lineage, and cell potential. 

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