DNA Studies Show Sumatran Tiger Is Closest Living Relative of Extinct Bali and Javan Tigers

Stephen O'Brien (photo), Ph.D., the CSO of the Theodosius Dobzhansky Center for Genome Bioinformatics, St. Petersburg State University (Russia) and Director of Research for Florida’s Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU's) Office of Research and Technology Transfer, is a world-renowned geneticist, and he was a prominent member of a team of research scientists from China, the United Kingdom, Israel, Russia, and Qatar that examined the genetic make-up of tigers over a ten-year period. The study, which was published online on March 8, 2015 in the Journal of Heredity and will appear in the print edition May 1, 2015, describes DNA signatures for 145 individual tigers, including "voucher specimens" of tigers from verified geographic origins including Eurasian museum specimens that represent extinct subspecies. The article is titled “Genetic Ancestry of the Extinct Javan and Bali Tigers.” Their study's first results appeared in 2004 and showed Malayan tigers splitting from their Indochinese counterpart as a distinct, new fifth-living tiger subspecies. The latest results show that extinct Javan (1980s) and Bali (1940s) tigers were nearly indistinguishable from a molecular standpoint from existing Sumatran tigers, just as the extinct Caspian tigers are nearly identical to surviving Amur tiger subspecies. "These results are important to help craft management strategies for protecting each surviving subspecies of tiger and stabilizing the march toward extinction that they are clearly on," Dr. O'Brien said. "These markers also provide powerful tools for forensic identification of subspecies in captive populations, as well as trafficked bones and skins in illegal trade enforcement."
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