Spotting Stripes

How do some tigers earn… EXTRA stripes?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Got the eye of the tiger… PRINT? Almost FORTY percent of the tigers in Similipal national preserve in India have “double” stripes. Some are more black than orange! BUT this unique pattern exists NOWHERE else. 

Why the difference? Vinay Sagar and colleagues from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research investigated. How? By analyzing the tigers’ DNA. 

Their super-stripey-sauce results from a SINGLE mutation! Not only that – computer simulations show that this whole park of special stripes could have started with just TWO tigers! 

How? Habitat loss has caused populations to become disconnected, which causes a loss of DNA diversity. When populations split, the gene POOL can’t all make it. Inbreeding often results! That’s how this park’s gene PUDDLE got double stripes.

Stripes are fun, but not all mutations are! To preserve species, we need to move animals between populations. Allow the gene puddles to pool again!

And as Tony the Tiger says, that would be GRRR-EAT!!

Reference: Sagar, V., Kaelin, C. B., Natesh, M., Reddy, P. A., Mohapatra, R. K., Chhattani, H., Thatte, P., Vaidyanathan, S., Biswas, S., Bhatt, S., Paul, S., Jhala, Y. V., Verma, M. M., Pandav, B., Mondol, S., Barsh, G. S., Swain, D., & Ramakrishnan, U. (2021). High frequency of an otherwise rare phenotype in a small and isolated tiger population. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(39), e2025273118.