Animal Conservation

Genetic variability and geographic structure of three subspecies of tigers (Panthera tigris) based on MHC class I variation

Sher L.  Hendrickson a1c1, Gregory C.  Mayer a1, Edward P.  Wallen a1 and Kathy  Quigley a2
a1 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Kenosha, WI 53141, USA
a2 Hornocker Wildlife Institute, PO Box 3246, Moscow, ID 38343, USA


Genetic variation at the major histocompatibility (MHC) class I loci was examined in captive and wild samples of three subspecies of tiger (Bengal, Panthera tigris tigris; Siberian, P. t. altaica; Sumatran, P. t. sumatrae) by Southern blot analysis using the domestic cat probe FLA 24. All captive populations showed at least moderate variability compared to other felids. Captive tigers were, on average, significantly more variable than wild tigers, but this was not consistent among subspecies. Significant geographic genetic population structure was found at the MHC class I loci among both captive and wild tigers. Phylogenetic analysis of both captive and wild tigers placed Sumatran tigers basally. In a combined phylogenetic analysis, captive and wild tigers of the same subspecies occurred near one another, indicating that the structure of the captive populations reflects that of the wild populations.

(Received June 16 1998)
(Accepted November 12 1999)

c1 Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin, 430 Lincoln Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA. Tel: (608) 265-6027; Fax: (608) 265-6320; E-mail: