translating biophilia into a love of life

I’ve fallen behind in my tiger posts

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With all the talk of puppies lately, I’ve fallen behind in my tiger posts.  Thanks to the new Science blog, Origins, I have happy news for tigers and tiger conservation!

The regal Caspian tiger (1960s above, 2009 below)

The regal Caspian tiger–thought to have gone extinct nearly 40 years ago–lives on in a closely related subspecies, a new genetic analysis reveals.

Conservationists say they can use these relatives to help reestablish the Caspian tiger in Central Asia, parts of which are no longer inhabited by people and have plenty of suitable prey.

Once among the most widespread animals in Asia, tigers are now gone from more than 90% of their habitat. Biologists broke the original population down into eight subspecies, based on looks and geography, from the relatively small and dark Indochinese tiger of southern continental Asia to the massive Siberian tiger of the Russian far east. In 2004, researchers for the first time applied DNA analysis to the tiger family tree and confirmed the existence of five extant subspecies.

Caspian tiger DNA was readily distinguishable from most other tigers’ DNA. But when the team compared the genome of the Caspian tiger with that of the Siberian, or Amur, tiger, only one letter of genetic code separated them. Thus, the two subspecies are really one, with the supposed Siberian tiger splitting off from the Caspian tiger in the past century.


Written by morethangray

January 15, 2009 at 9:56 am

Posted in thoughts

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