BIG CATS EVOLVED AS TIGERS
In a first, scientists have mapped the tiger genome, including that of the Bengal Tiger, and identified genetic mutations that helped the big cat evolve to become a top predator. Scientists also sequenced the genomes of the lion and snow leopard, in an effort to conserve and protect the endangered species. The study provides clues to how big cats evolved to become top predators with superior muscle strength and a carnivorous diet, 'BBC News' reported. Researchers found that the tiger shares 96 per cent of its genes with the house cat. The only cat to have its DNA mapped was the domestic one. Researchers led by Yun Sung Cho at the Personal Genomics Institute, Genome Research Foundation in Suwon, South Korea, sequenced the genome of a Siberian tiger. The individual, Taegeuk, is a nine-year-old male from Everland Zoo in South Korea. The team then sequenced the DNA of four other big cats - the African lion, snow leopard, white Bengal tiger and white African lion. This enabled the researchers to compare how the genes matched up in different members of the cat family. Genetic signatures show how big cats gained their superior muscle strength, the ability to digest large amounts of meat and a keen sense of smell. The research also gives genetic clues to how the white lion gained its pale coat and how the snow leopard adapted to the snowy mountain ranges. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.