Genome-Wide Evolutionary Analysis of Natural History and Adaptation in the World’s Tigers.
Current Biology 28 (23). 10.1016/j.cub.2018.09.019.
No other species attracts more international resources, public attention, and protracted controversies over its intraspecific taxonomy than the tiger (Panthera tigris) [1, 2]. Today, fewer than 4,000 free-ranging tigers survive, covering only 7% of their historical range, and debates persist over whether they comprise six, five, or two subspecies [3–6]. The lack of consensus over the number of tiger subspecies has partially hindered the global effort to recover the species from the brink of extinction, as both captive breeding and landscape intervention of wild populations increasingly require an explicit delineation of the conservation management units . The recent coalescence to a late Pleistocene bottleneck (circa 110 kya) [5, 8, 9] poses challenges for detecting tiger subspecific morphological traits, suggesting that elucidating intraspecific evolution in the tiger requires analyses at the genomic scale. Here, we present whole-genome sequencing analyses from 32 voucher specimens that resolve six statistically robust monophyletic clades corresponding to extant subspecies, including the recently recognized Malayan tiger (P. tigris jacksoni). The intersubspecies gene flow is very low, corroborating the recognized phylogeographic units. We identified multiple genomic regions that are candidates for identifying the adaptive divergence of subspecies. The body-size-related gene ADH7 appears to have been strongly selected in the Sumatran tiger, perhaps in association with adaptation to the tropical Sunda Islands. The identified genomic signatures provide a solid basis for recognizing appropriate conservation management units in the tiger and can benefit global conservation strategic planning for this charismatic megafauna icon.