Tiger genome to help big-cat conservation

September 17, 2013
A Siberian tiger licks an ice cube to cool off in Guaipo Siberian Tiger Park in Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning province on August 12, 2013.

South Korean scientists said on Tuesday they had carried out the first DNA analysis of the tiger and four other great felines in a project to help critically-endangered cats to survive.

A team led by Jong Bhak of the Personal Genomics Institute in Suwon unravelled the genome of the Amur tiger, and compared it against those of a white Bengal tiger, the African lion, a white African lion and the snow leopard.

The comparison yielded a string of genes highlighting shared characteristics among these close but distinct species.

They include common genes pointing to extreme muscle strength and an ability to metabolise a "hypercarnivorous" diet.

There are also variants accounting for differences in fur colour and, in the case of the snow leopard, the ability to adapt to high, icy habitats.

The genomes, reported in the journal Nature Communications, point to a "rich and diverse" data source for helping conservationists, Bhak's team said.

Of the nine subspecies of tiger, they reported, four were wiped out in the wild in the last century—the Javan, Balinese, South China and Caspian tigers.

"The current estimates of range from just 3,050 to 3,950 individuals," they said.

"It is postulated that without , tigers will soon become extinct in the wild."

Explore further: Photos of rare Amur tiger give hope to NE China's tiger recovery efforts

Related Stories

White tiger mystery solved

May 23, 2013

White tigers today are only seen in zoos, but they belong in nature, say researchers reporting new evidence about what makes those tigers white. Their spectacular white coats are produced by a single change in a known pigment ...

Nepal's Royal Bengal tiger numbers soar

July 29, 2013

Nepal's number of Royal Bengal tigers in the wild has soared 64 percent to 198 in just four years, according to a government survey released Monday.

Rare Sumatran tiger cubs born at US zoo

August 8, 2013

Two rare Sumatran tiger cubs were born this week at the National Zoo in the US capital, in what zookeepers described Thursday as a conservation victory for the critically endangered cats.

Doomed deer freed to feed China's elusive tigers

September 16, 2013

High in the mountains of northeastern China, conservationists looking to preserve the endangered Amur tiger—the world's largest living feline—are releasing deer into the area for the big cats to kill and eat.

Recommended for you

Some vaccines support evolution of more-virulent viruses

July 27, 2015

Scientific experiments with the herpesvirus such as the one that causes Marek's disease in poultry have confirmed, for the first time, the highly controversial theory that some vaccines could allow more-virulent versions ...

Mammoths killed by abrupt climate change

July 23, 2015

New research has revealed abrupt warming, that closely resembles the rapid man-made warming occurring today, has repeatedly played a key role in mass extinction events of large animals, the megafauna, in Earth's past.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.