The genetic "tree" of tigers of continental Asia was compiled by a team of scientists10.09.2023 | 11:00 |
For the first time, the evolutionary history of ancient tigers has been fully studied - an international team of scientists has traced the genetic history of the origin of these large predators in continental Asia. They examined the DNA code of more than 60 modern and fossil specimens and officially confirmed the existence of nine modern subspecies. The results of their work are published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
Tigers (Panthera tigris) belong to the genus of panthers and are the largest representatives of wild cats. Several subspecies are known among the living predators – Amur, Bengali, Indochinese, Malay, South Chinese and Sumatran. The extinct subspecies include Balinese, Javanese and Caspian.
The researchers studied DNA sequences from ancient samples aged 100- 10 thousand years ago collected in the Russian Far East, as well as in China, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. These data on predators have become the basis of a genetic tree that will help scientists better understand the evolution of tigers.
Genetic analysis of fossil samples has shown, for example, that the Amur tiger descended from an extinct Late Pleistocene lineage. The Far Eastern tigers separated from the "root" earlier than others, and subsequently their evolutionary line developed independently.
But the study of South Chinese tigers showed that areas of southwestern China served as a refuge for relict lines of striped predator. At the same time, eastern China was a kind of genetic "melting pot" in which various lines were mixed and it was they who expanded the habitat after the return of suitable conditions.
As for the extinct Caspian tigers, the study of DNA samples showed that they almost do not differ from the Amur tiger, and craniometric analysis confirmed a significant coincidence between the Caspian and other continental subspecies of predators. Scientists also have another version of the origin of this subspecies – it can originate from the population of Northeast Asia, and the other part of the genes could be obtained from South Bengal tigers. But the authors of the scientific project still have many questions about the "pedigree" of the Caspian tiger, whose genetic line has not yet been traced to the end. Research continues.