It’s just been reported that tigers, as well as a number of other large cats, have had their genes sequenced. The result is fascinating. Talking to the BBC, researcher Jong Bhak at the Genome Research Foundation in Suwon, South Korea, said:
…cats had been very successful in adapting to their environment as predators, which is reflected in the genomes of both the tiger and the domestic cat.
“Tigers are just a big domestic cat,” he added. “They’re probably much closer than we thought.”
The genes of several big cats were sequenced as part of an international effort. These included the Siberian Tiger, Bengal Tiger, Snow Leopard, African Lion, White Lion. The results showed that tigers share 96% of their genes with domestic cats, something you may wish to think about next time your fur baby snuggles up to you in bed.
The research involved has many practical uses. Not only does it provide invaluable insights in finding cures for feline disease, but also vital to assist the preservation of big cats in the wild. Jong Bhak explained:
“Our tiger reference genome can be used as the basis for comparing all the tigers in the world, so that we know the genetic diversity of tigers,” he told the BBC.
“And we can actually have a plan of how we can breed tigers effectively [in zoos] to save the genetic diversity.
Its long been known there are many behaviours shared between tigers and domestic cats. Tigers sleep for long periods of the day, they spend much time meticulously grooming themselves, they are playful, love to slink and pounce, and they have many similar ways of hunting.
One thing they don’t normally do however, is wake their companion human an hour before the alarm clock rings.