The Caspian tiger is an extinct species. Its native range is northern Iran, eastern Mesopotamia, the Caucasus around the Caspian Sea, and western China (Xinjiang region). It was also found in southern Russia until the Middle Ages. Although the Caspian tiger is not currently a widespread predator in the wild, its habitat remains suitable for its reintroduction.
Amur tiger population is genetically closest living relative of extinct Caspian tiger
Scientists believe the Amur tiger population is the genetically closest living relative of the extinct Caspian tiger. The two tigers share many characteristics and are closely related, including the size, habitat, and diet. They have evolved separately from one another over the past million years, and are genetically close to each other. However, their similarities do not stop them from being completely different.
Amur tigers were critically endangered in the 1940s, but have recovered through conservation efforts. Today, it is estimated that up to 500 Amur tigers are left in the wild, and a further 421 are held in captivity. Despite their continued survival, however, the genetic health of this population is not good, according to a new analysis. The team was led by Michael Russello and Philippe Henry from the University of British Columbia, and included representatives from Japan and Canada.
The phylogenetic relationships of tiger subspecies have been investigated using data from 23 specimens of the extinct Caspian tiger kept in museums across Eurasia. They analyzed mitochondrial DNA sequences of these specimens to understand where they came from. The study also revealed that Amur tigers are the closest living relatives of the extinct Caspian tiger.
Although the Amur tiger population is the genetically closest living relative of the extinct Caspian tiger, researchers are trying to introduce them to the old habitat of the Caspian tiger. Scientists from Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research are working to reintroduce Siberian tigers into the former Caspian tiger’s habitat to see if they can reproduce there.
Amur tiger habitat patches remain potentially suitable for re-introduction of Caspian tiger
While there’s no evidence that the Caspian tiger has been reintroduced in Central Asia, it’s been discussed for almost a decade. In 2010, Kazakhstan, which hosts the largest concentration of tigers, offered support for a reintroduction effort. The country’s government endorsed the study, and scientists analyzed possible scenarios for habitat restoration.
There are only two potential tiger re-introduction sites in Central Asia. The Ili river delta on the southern shore of Balkhash Lake holds approximately 7000 km2 of suitable habitat. This location is believed to support between forty and eighty tigers within 50 years. However, the habitat patch is still in its infancy.
The break-up of the Soviet Union and the introduction of market economies facilitated the recovery of tiger habitats in the area. In the years since, statesponsored agricultural programs along the rivers were abandoned. Scientists have concluded that the Caspian and Amur tigers were closely related, and that they are likely “analog species” for re-introduction efforts in the Ili-Balkhash region.
The Amur Tiger
The Amur tiger was first recorded in 1938 in the area of Lake Baikal. It was the last stronghold of the Caspian tiger in the Soviet Union. Soviet irrigation projects destroyed tiger habitats such as tugay woodlands, which were essential for the tiger’s diet. As a result, the number of prey decreased.
The Amur and Caspian tiger share the same haplotype, a set of closely related genetic markers. The Caspian tiger’s mitochondrial DNA is thought to be derived from that of the Amur tiger. Both tigers have been extinct for more than a century, but many habitat patches remain potentially suitable for re-introduction.
The Russian Tiger
The Russian tiger’s distribution is also a concern, as it has declined by nearly twothirds. Russian Far East and Central Asia are home to only a small fraction of their previous habitats, and tigers need both taiga and tugai. These two habitats are not the same, but both regions are highly valuable for tiger conservation.
Although the Caspian tiger has disappeared from Central Asia, patches of its former range still remain potentially suitable for reintroduction. In the midst of global climate change, the tigers are becoming increasingly rare and have become critically endangered. In many cases, they have displaced to more suitable habitat in the Trans-Caucasus, resulting in their extinction.
The findings of this study will have significant implications for large carnivore conservation efforts in Asia, as well as in the rest of the world. Fortunately, the tigers of the Amur region are in good condition. Some of these patches are re-introduced and could help save the Caspian tiger.
Bengal tiger population is genetically closest living relative of extinct Caspian tiger
The Bengal tiger is the largest and most popular big cat. But their numbers have declined drastically over the last century. Estimates suggest there may be fewer than 3,200 tigers left in the wild. In India, the population of tigers has declined from around 3,600 to about 1,400 in eight years. This reduction is the result of decades of poaching and habitat destruction.
Once widespread in Central Asia, the Caspian tiger once occupied sparse forest habitats and riverine corridors west of the Caspian Sea. It also occasionally visited Mongolia’s Xinjiang province, where it fed on wild asses and Bactrian deer. However, it has been almost 20 years since the last Caspian tiger was recorded.
Despite these difficulties, the study showed that the Bengal tiger population is genetically close to the extinct Caspian tiger. Researchers studied the genomes of 32 representative tigers. There are nine subspecies of tiger, six of which survive today. The findings indicate that the tigers evolved to withstand warmer climates, and that these adaptations may have been triggered by events in prehistoric times.
The distribution of mtDNA haplotypes among tiger specimens suggests that these tigers shared a common ancestor. The BAL and SON haplotypes are unique to Java and Bali, and no haplotypes have been discovered in Sumatran tigers. SON and BAL are the two most common haplotypes in the two Javan and Bali populations, but are also not shared with the Sumatran tiger.