What Is a Tiger? Genetics and Phylogeography

Shu Jin Luo, Warren E. Johnson, James L D Smith L. David, Stephen J. O'Brien

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

8 Scopus citations


The rapidly changing field of molecular genetics, particularly advances in genome sequence analyses, has provided new tools to reconstruct what defines a tiger and its origins. The evolutionary history framing the tiger into the exquisite predator has ancestral roots and history are depicted in its phylogeography, the genetic patterns of diversification among individuals and populations on both temporal and geographical scales. The subspecies concept provokes both scientific and political controversy because several subspecies are considered to be specific units of conservation, which are protected by international treaties and organizations concerned with the stewardship of wildlife on the species level. The recognition of subspecies has particular relevance because tiger conservation strategies are inextricably tied to subspecific taxonomic divisions. Debates persist over the role of captive tigers in conservation efforts, whether managed captive populations serve as adequate genetic reservoirs for the natural populations, and whether the presumptive "dgeneric" tigers have any conservation value. The most direct way to address the dilemma is through a thorough understanding of the genetic ancestry, the extent of genetic admixture, and the level of genetic diversity of captive tigers in relation to the wild populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTigers of the World
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9780815515708
StatePublished - 2010


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