An analysis of the genomes of 32 tigers showed when the ancestors of the modern tiger subspecies began to live separately from each other. This could be due to the eruption of the Indonesian supervolcano Toba, which affected the climate of the entire planet. The research results are published in the journal Current Biology.
New data revealed that the ancestor of modern tigers lived on Earth relatively recently, from 72,200 to 154,800 years ago. It was during this time interval that the Toba Supervolcano erupted on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia (about 72,000 years ago). According to modern paleontologists, because of this eruption, the average temperature on the planet has decreased, as a result of which many plants and animals have disappeared. Apparently, the authors note, a small number of tigers could survive this cataclysm and formed isolated habitats in several regions.
Despite the fact that the common ancestor of tigers lived by evolutionary standards quite recently, scientists found that modern subspecies have already undergone a natural selection. An important role in this process was played by the ADH7 gene, which was found in the Sumatran tiger. He was tied to the size of the animal. In addition, genome analysis allowed confirming that within the Panthera tigris species there are six subspecies: the South Chinese, Bengali, Amur, Sumatran, Indochinese and Malay tigers. By the way, the latter was identified as an independent subspecies quite recently – in 2004.
The authors of the article note that the origin of the South Chinese tiger remains unknown. The study involved only one individual of this subspecies: unfortunately, today these animals are no longer found in the wild. Scientists plan to continue working with genetic tigers, including the extinct subspecies (Caspian, Balinese and Javanese), which have disappeared from the face of the earth during the last century. This work will help fill the gaps in the evolutionary history of the largest felines on Earth. In addition, new data will help develop successful strategies for the preservation of endangered species.