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Tiger, lion and domestic cat genes not so different

Genomes of big felines provide insight into their evolution

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4:51pm, September 18, 2013
DNA DONATION  HwaRang, a white Bengal tiger that lives at the Everland Zoo in South Korea, is one of five big cats that donated DNA for a genome sequencing project.

Tigers and their relatives have hit on the right combination of genes to make them successful hunters, scientists have learned from studying the DNA of some of the biggest big cats.

Along with teasing out the Siberian tiger’s secrets, an international team of scientists also examined the genomes of a white Bengal tiger, a snow leopard and two African lions, one of them from a rare white female. The vulnerable and endangered animals’ genomes, reported September 17 in Nature Communications, are the start of a database that is important for understanding the cats’ evolutionary past and for preserving their future, says Lisette Waits, a conservation geneticist at the University of Idaho, who was not involved in the study. “It’s impressive, exciting work,” she says.

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