New Delhi. The long-standing mystery about the black tiger in Similipal, Orissa, is claimed to have finally been solved, and researchers have identified a single mutation in the gene that causes their characteristic stripes to widen and sometimes appear completely black. Considered a myth for many centuries, the black tiger has long been the center of attraction. Now, a team led by scientist Uma Ramakrishnan and her student Vinay Sagar from the National Center for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore has discovered that the color is due to mutations in a specific gene.
Professor Ramakrishnan told PTI that this is the first and only study to look at the genetic basis of this phenotype. He said the phenotype has been discussed before and written about. But first its genetic basis was scientifically investigated. Researchers have combined genetic analysis and computer-aided data from other tigers from India to show that the similipal black tiger originated from an early population of very small tigers.
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The study was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It states that tigers in the Similipal Sanctuary are an isolated population in eastern India and that the flow of genes between them and other tigers is very limited.
Scientists involved in the study say it has significant implications for tiger conservation because such isolated populations are also at risk of extinction in the short term. Sagar, the lead author of the study and a PhD student involved in the research team, told PTI that to his knowledge, the black tiger was not found anywhere else or in any other forest.
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