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South China Tiger Genome, Analyses Point to Conservation Clues

For a paper appearing in BMC Biology, a team at the Guangzhou Zoo and Guangzhou Wildlife Research Center, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and elsewhere present findings from a population genomic analysis focused on the South China tiger subspecies Panthera tigris amoyensis. Using long-read single-molecule real-time sequencing, short-read genome re-sequencing data for 26 tigers, optical mapping, and Hi-C chromatin interaction profiling, the researchers put together a 2.47 gigabase genome containing more than 20,900 predicted protein-coding genes, 568 microRNAs, more than 6,300 transfer RNAs, and hundreds more ribosomal or small nuclear RNAs, along with repetitive elements that made up almost 35 percent of the genome. When they analyzed the genome alongside sequences from 40 other animals spanning half a dozen tiger subspecies, the authors tracked down two distinct South China tiger lineages  which were marked by rare variants that originated in other tiger subspecies  along with signs of recent inbreeding or a recent founder event. "We recommend that individuals of the two genomic lineages could be merged to breed for minimizing a further loss of the unique and critical genetic variations [in the South China tiger genome]," they write, arguing that the latest results "shed light into a potentially bright future of these critically endangered cats."