Using a new method for assessing the genetic ancestry of tigers, researchers discovered that many apparently "generic" tigers actually represent purebred subspecies and harbor genomic diversity no longer found in nature.
" Assessment of ‘verified subspecies ancestry’ (VSA) offers a powerful tool that, if applied to tigers of uncertain background, may considerably increase the number of purebred tigers suitable for conservation management," said Shu-Jin Luo, of the National Cancer Institute, Frederick. “This approach would be of particular importance to tiger subspecies that have suffered severe population decline in the wild and/or lack of efficient captive breeding.”
For instance, he said, the Indochinese tiger has been classified as a different subspecies from the Malayan tiger, leaving just 14 recognized Indochinese individuals in captivity. “Thus,” Luo added, “verification of VSA Indochinese tigers, establishment of captive breeding programs, and preservation of remaining Indochinese tiger populations in the wild should be set as one of the top priorities in the global tiger conservation strategy.”
Tigers in general are disappearing rapidly from the wild, from over 100,000 in the 1900s to as few as 3,000 last year, said the researchers, led by Stephen O'Brien also of the National Cancer Institute, Frederick. By contrast, captive tigers are flourishing, with 15,000–20,000 individuals worldwide, outnumbering their wild relatives between five and seven to one.
A relatively small portion of the world's captive tigers—some 1,000 individuals in all—are managed through coordinated breeding programs that aim to preserve genetic variability representative of geographic and subspecies groupings found in the wild, the researchers said. The rest are of hybrid or unknown origin and are kept in zoos, farms, breeding facilities, circuses, and private homes. Scientists have long debated the role that captive tigers might play in conservation efforts.
To address the issue in the new study, the researchers developed a strategy for assessing the subspecies affiliation of tigers on the basis of diagnostic genetic markers obtained from 134 "voucher" tigers. They applied the method to samples from 105 captive tigers from 14 countries collected over 20 years. Of those, 49 individuals were found to represent one of five purebred subspecies, or VSA. The rest of the cats had mixed backgrounds.
They suspect that the proportion of purebreds observed in their study will be an overestimate for captive tigers worldwide. Nevertheless, they said, "If 14–23 percent of the over 15,000 existing captive tigers would prove to be VSA, the number of tigers with pure subspecies heritage available for conservation consideration would considerably increase.
" Also, an important fraction of captive tigers retain genetic diversity unreported, and perhaps absent, in the wild populations. A wide-ranging identification of captive VSA tigers to assess their potential for inclusion into comprehensive, integrated in situ and ex situ management plans could significantly increase population sizes and help maintain genetic variability and population viability of this iconoclastic species."
The researchers include Shu-Jin Luo, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, MD, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MI; Warren E. Johnson, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, MD; Janice Martenson, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, MD; Agostinho Antunes, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, MD, CIMAR, Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal; Paolo Martelli, Veterinary Department, Ocean Park, Aberdeen, Hong Kong; Olga Uphyrkina, Institute of Biology and Soil Sciences, Vladivostok, Russia; Kathy Traylor-Holzer, Conservation Breeding Specialist Group/SSC/IUCN, Apple Valley, MI; James L.D. Smith, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MI; and Stephen J. O’Brien, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, MD
Cathleen Genova | EurekAlert!
How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy