Image wrongs Pt1

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Mrs E Compton-Williams writes:

"I was watching the Genius episode of 'G' series and wondered what it was about cat genetics that made CC the cloned cat look so different to her mother. The main two points that I would like to highlight are: i) CC does not stand for CopyCat but Carbon Copy. And ii) The tabby shown in the picture on QI was the surrogate mother of CC, not the cat from whom she was cloned."

An elf replies...

There are around half a dozen QI elves that dig out facts throughout the year, but some of the less-heralded yet equally important work is done by the "Picture elves" - a couple of specialist researchers who spend the months running-up to the show trawling through picture libraries and poring over photoshop in order to get the very best images for the show. You may have already noticed that our guests sometimes find just as much material from the pictures on our big screens as they do from our "Quite Interesting" questions.

But just as they are vitally important for the show, so they must try to keep their work as error-free as possible: our eagle-eyed viewers will always let us know should they make a mistake. And that's what they have done on this occasion. Mrs Compton-Williams is quite right to say that the cats on the screens in this show were CC and her surrogate mother Allie, not her genetic mother Rainbow. Rainbow looks much more similar to CC, but is still not identical as the colour of a cat is down to a mixture between genetic and environmental factors.

The colour of a cloned cat may not sound like the most interesting topic of conversation, but actually it is vitally important for the researchers involved. Cats' coats are related to the X and Y sex chromosomes of the animal: The orange-coat gene, for example, is carried on the X chromosome, which makes it sex-linked. In male cats it can cause black or orange coats, while in females it can produce three colours: black, orange, and tortoiseshell. Anyway, the fact that the two cats had similar coats meant that researchers could identify the type of cell from which it was derived, and so they knew to test these cells in order to prove that CC was a true clone. It's all fairly complicated stuff and probably not worth going into in a lowly quibble blog, but certainly not to be taken lightly.

What is more to the quibble blog's level, perhaps, is CC's real name. Is Mrs Compton-Williams correct that the cat is called "Carbon Copy" and not "Copycat"? Well we have a lot on our side: MSN, The Guardian, the BBC and *ahem* wikipedia, all call the cat Copycat, but it seems like we may all be wrong. The paper submitted to Nature has no reference to the cat's name, but the experiment was done at Texas A&M University and a search of their website gives a clue. There is no reference to CopyCat on the site, but there is a single citation that gives "Carbon Copy" as the cat's full name.

An understandable mistake, given all the citations in the press, but a mistake nonetheless. Seems like the elves are going to have to take half of the responsibility for this quibble back from our picture elves.

If you see anything in QI's input that doesn't seem quite right, get in touch by e-mail at or visit our talkboards at


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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by eggshaped published on November 15, 2010 6:13 PM.

Franciful Facts was the previous entry in this blog.

Image wrongs Pt 2 is the next entry in this blog.

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