Proceedings in Phylogeography and Genetic Ancestry of Tigers (Panthera tigris) in China and Across Their Range
Tigers, Phylogeography, China, Subspecies, Genetic ancestry
Of eight traditionally classified subspecies of the tiger Panthera tigris three have recently gone extinct and poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation continue to threaten its survival. China historically harbors four of the existing subspecies and thus has high conservation priority, yet their status, both in the wild and captivity, remains highly uncertain. A recent molecular survey (Luo et al, 2004) of 134 "voucher specimens" (taken from tigers of verified wild ancestry and geographic origin), from across the full range including China, examined three different types of molecular markers; four kilobase-pairs of mitochondrial DNA, 30 nuclear microsatellite loci and the nuclear major histocompatibility complex class II DRB gene; to elucidate the genetic structure of tiger populations. The data revealed relatively low genetic variation but nonetheless significant population subdivisions, suggesting six rather than five living subspecies: (1) Amur tiger P. t. altaica, (2) South China tiger P. t. amoyensis, (3) a refined Indochinese tiger P. t. corbetti, (4) a new subspecies Malayan tiger P. t. jacksoni, named after the tiger conservationist Peter Jackson, (5) Sumatran tiger P. t. sumatrae, and (6) Bengal tiger P. t. tigris. Reduced gene flow and genetic drift in isolated populations since the last genetic diminution about 72,000-108,000 years ago, as well as the recent anthropogenic range contraction, is likely to have caused these partitions. In particular, the proposed South China tiger lineage is tentative due to limited sampling. It is apparent that current captive South China tigers inherit at least two genetic lineages: one that is unique and distinct from the other subspecies and a second indistinguishable from the northern Indochinese tigers. An explicit genetic assessment of the captive tigers in China is urgently needed to validate the uniqueness or non-uniqueness of the South China tiger, or indeed the survival of P. t. amoyensis.
Luo, Shu-Jin; Jae-Heup Kim; Warren E. Johnson; Dale G. Miquelle; Huang Shi-Qiang; Wen-Shi Pan; James L. D. Smith; and Stephen J. O'Brien. 2006. "Proceedings in Phylogeography and Genetic Ancestry of Tigers (Panthera tigris) in China and Across Their Range." Zoological Research 27, (4): 441-448. http://nsuworks.nova.edu/cnso_bio_facarticles/536