Conservation priorities for endangered Indian tigers through a genomic lens

Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 29;7(1):9614. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-09748-3.


Tigers have lost 93% of their historical range worldwide. India plays a vital role in the conservation of tigers since nearly 60% of all wild tigers are currently found here. However, as protected areas are small (<300 km2 on average), with only a few individuals in each, many of them may not be independently viable. It is thus important to identify and conserve genetically connected populations, as well as to maintain connectivity within them. We collected samples from wild tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) across India and used genome-wide SNPs to infer genetic connectivity. We genotyped 10,184 SNPs from 38 individuals across 17 protected areas and identified three genetically distinct clusters (corresponding to northwest, southern and central India). The northwest cluster was isolated with low variation and high relatedness. The geographically large central cluster included tigers from central, northeastern and northern India, and had the highest variation. Most genetic diversity (62%) was shared among clusters, while unique variation was highest in the central cluster (8.5%) and lowest in the northwestern one (2%). We did not detect signatures of differential selection or local adaptation. We highlight that the northwest population requires conservation attention to ensure persistence of these tigers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Endangered Species*
  • Genetic Loci
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Genomics / methods
  • Geography
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • India
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Tigers / classification
  • Tigers / genetics*