Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

White tiger mystery solved: Coat color produced by single change in pigment gene

Date:
May 23, 2013
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
White tigers today are only seen in zoos, but they belong in nature, say researchers reporting new evidence about what makes those tigers white. Their spectacular white coats are produced by a single change in a known pigment gene, according to a new study.

These are white tigers at Chimelong Safari Park in China.
Credit: Chimelong Safari Park

White tigers today are only seen in zoos, but they belong in nature, say researchers reporting new evidence about what makes those tigers white. Their spectacular white coats are produced by a single change in a known pigment gene, according to the study, appearing on May 23 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication.

"The white tiger represents part of the natural genetic diversity of the tiger that is worth conserving, but is now seen only in captivity," says Shu-Jin Luo of China's Peking University.

Luo, Xiao Xu, Ruiqiang Li, and their colleagues advocate a proper captive management program to maintain a healthy Bengal tiger population including both white and orange tigers. They say it might even be worth considering the reintroduction of white tigers into their wild habitat.

The researchers mapped the genomes of a family of 16 tigers living in Chimelong Safari Park, including both white and orange individuals. They then sequenced the whole genomes of each of the three parents in the family.

Those genetic analyses led them to a pigment gene, called SLC45A2, which had already been associated with light coloration in modern Europeans and in other animals, including horses, chickens, and fish. The variant found in the white tiger primarily inhibits the synthesis of red and yellow pigments but has little to no effect on black, which explains why white tigers still show characteristic dark stripes.

Historical records of white tigers on the Indian subcontinent date back to the 1500s, Luo notes, but the last known free-ranging white tiger was shot in 1958. That many white tigers were hunted as mature adults suggests that they were fit to live in the wild. It's worth considering that tigers' chief prey species, such as deer, are likely colorblind.

Captive white tigers sometimes do show abnormalities, such as crossed eyes, but Luo says any frailties are likely the responsibility of humans, who have inbred the rare tigers in captivity. With the causal gene identified, the researchers ultimately hope to explore the evolutionary forces that have maintained tigers in both orange and white varieties.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Xiao Xu, Gui-Xin Dong, Xue-Song Hu, Lin Miao, Xue-Li Zhang, De-Lu Zhang, Han-Dong Yang, Tian-You Zhang, Zheng-Ting Zou, Ting-Ting Zhang, Yan Zhuang, Jong Bhak, Yun Sung Cho, Wen-Tao Dai, Tai-Jiao Jiang, Can Xie, Ruiqiang Li, Shu-Jin Luo. The Genetic Basis of White Tigers. Current Biology, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.04.054

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "White tiger mystery solved: Coat color produced by single change in pigment gene." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130523143342.htm>.
Cell Press. (2013, May 23). White tiger mystery solved: Coat color produced by single change in pigment gene. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130523143342.htm
Cell Press. "White tiger mystery solved: Coat color produced by single change in pigment gene." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130523143342.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — You're more likely to gain weight while watching action flicks than you are watching other types of programming, says a new study published in JAMA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Get A Mortgage, Receive A Cat — Only In Russia

Get A Mortgage, Receive A Cat — Only In Russia

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — The incentive is in keeping with a Russian superstition that it's good luck for a cat to be the first to cross the threshold of a new home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

AFP (Sep. 2, 2014) — Tourists in Palau clamour to dive with sharks thanks to a pioneering conservation initiative -- as the island nation plans to completely ban commercial fishing in its vast ocean territory. 01:15 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins