1 Tahrcountry Musings: Caged Tigers are not mongrels

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Caged Tigers are not mongrels

Caged tigers are often associated with dubious ancestry. They are treated like mongrels. But the latest analysis has come out with the fact that a significant number of them bear the genetic imprint of a single subspecies. It was Stephen O'Brien, a geneticist at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Frederick, Maryland and colleagues who analysed 20 years' collection of DNA samples from 105 captive tigers around the world. Almost half the tigers could be assigned to one subspecies, whereas the rest were of mixed lineage. The team also found new mitochondrial DNA and microsatellite features not yet recorded in wild tigers. This points to the fact the captive population harbours genetic diversity that may have been lost in the wild.

With an estimated 3000 tigers left in the wild this finding has great portent for conservation. The tigers in captivity have continued to multiply, numbering 15,000 to 20,000 at last count.

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