Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Saving Every Type of Tiger Left Through Genetics

Tigers around the world have been going instinct and are now endangered. Less than 4,000 tigers remain in the wild. A century ago, about 100,000 tigers roamed Asia's forests. But now most tigers survive in captivity than in the wild due to habitat destruction, poaching, and more. Molecular geneticist, Dr. Shu-Jin Luo from the Peking University, conducted a study in order to account all types of tiger subspecies that are left to properly save them. Latest analyses confirmed nine total subspecies with six of them still living: Bengel, Amur, South China, Sumatran, Indochinese, and Malayan. The Caspian, Javan, and Bali tigers already have been lost to extinction.

Compared to Dr. Lou's and her colleagues' past findings of just one tiger genome sequenced, now they had whole-genome sequence analyses of 32 preserved wild tiger specimens from around the world. Six distinct subspecies of tigers were broken down from the statistical analysis of 1.8 million DNA variants across the tigers' genomes. This information also opens new doors into the evolutionary history of tigers. For example, they found genes associated with smaller body sizes  in Sumatran tigers of Indonesia relative to most mainland tigers due to the small prey (deer and wild boar) they hunt for. This information agrees with Dr.Luo's morphological observations and ecological expectations. Dr. Luo concludes, "To preserve such genomic signatures is to preserve evolutionary uniqueness that tigers have accumulated over thousands of years. We need to respect this uniqueness by maximizing our efforts for all tiger subspecies."

The Asia director of science for the Wildlife Conservation Society, Dr. Ullas Koranth, praising Dr.Lou's research but believes in prioritizing more in the  maintaining and recovering of tigers instead. In my opinion, I agree with Dr. Karanth. Although I also believe that collecting genetic information for the uniqueness of their genome is of high importance, the conservation and rebuilding of the tiger population is crucial and should be done initially. We should save them first and then document them. Tigers are imperative as they act as keystone species for most ecosystems, which is why we should be more aware of their endangered population.



  1. Ethan A.,
    It is always a disheartening feeling to read about what animal is next to be endangered and possibly extinct. It never fails that the problem originates in poaching and habitat destruction of said animal. Moreover, I wish there were more initiatives to preserve these animals in their natural habitat but it is an arduous task which takes compliance with ignorant people. How can we ever hope to bring back the number of tigers when people keep killing them for their own motives. As a whole, we have become less concerned with issues pertaining to nature and have become more self-centered. Who knows what it will take to make people realize that the space outdoors is beautiful and the animals we share it with are finite.

  2. I think that in order to fully do the species of tiger justice, it is imperative to have some measure to maximize the amount of tigers living a long life in all the different subspecies. I do agree with you in that the priority should first be on the "maintaining and recovering" of currents tigers than the genetic manipulation of the next generation.