Tiger that changed its stripes: Scientists solve mystery of Odisha’s ‘black tigers’

Nearly half a century after tribals of Similipal in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha claimed that they had noticed a uncommon black tiger, researchers have lastly solved the mystery of this distinctive function. Researchers from the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) have zeroed in on a uncommon mutation that leads to massive, merged stripes that trigger the tiger to seem black. These Odisha tigers primarily have stripes that are bigger than present in different tigers. And, these stripes merge amongst each other, inflicting the tigers to seem as if they’ve black-coloured pores and skin.

The uncommon mutation behind this has been present in one gene, Transmembrane Aminopeptidase Q or Taqpep. The findings of the research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences state that genome sequencing throughout the tiger vary helped discover the presence of this distinctive mutation within the Similipal Tiger Reserve.

The analysis crew, which was led by ecologist Dr Uma Ramakrishnan, mentioned that most endangered species exist today in small populations, many of that are remoted. Evolution in such populations is basically ruled by genetic drift. They discovered that roughly 37 per cent of tigers within the Similipal Tiger Reserve are pseudomelanistic (a time period used to explain the morphing of a sample), characterised by vast, merged stripes.

The most up-to-date sightings of this uncommon mutant tiger in Similipal, lengthy thought-about legendary, had been reported in 2017 and 2018.


Researchers investigated the genetic foundation for the pseudomelanism in these tigers and examined the position of genetic drift. They recognized a coding alteration in Transmembrane Aminopeptidase Q (Taqpep) and sampling of the tigers within the reserves revealed a excessive frequency of the Taqpep p.H454Y mutation.

Distribution of the genotyped people. A complete of 428 people had been genotyped. (Photo: PNAS)

The analysis in contrast the findings with genetic analyses of other tiger populations from India and knowledge from laptop simulations to point out that the Similipal black tigers could have come from a really small founding inhabitants of tigers and are possible inbred.

“Tigers have a distinctive dark stripe pattern on a light background, which can appear in several colour shades—white, golden, and snow white. Segregation of these colour variants in captive tiger populations has permitted their genetic and molecular characterisation,” the paper mentioned including that pseudomelanistic tigers are current in three populations in India: Nandankanan Biological Park, Bhubaneswar, Arignar Anna Zoological Park, Chennai, and Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park, Ranchi.


Researchers mentioned that distinct processes are concerned in implementing mammalian color patterns that happen throughout recurring hair cycles. The patterns take color because of direct engagement with pigment cells to manage mild or darkish pigment manufacturing. “Taqpep mutations in the domestic cat (Felis catus) and the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) alter pattern formation in a manner that is strikingly similar to pseudomelanistic tigers.”

The shift in sample is attributable to a change within the genetic materials DNA Alphabet from C (Cytosine) to T (Thymine) in place 1360 of the Taqpep gene sequence, the researchers mentioned. “It is amazing that we could find the genetic basis for such a striking pattern phenotype in wild tigers, and even more interesting that this genetic variant is at high frequencies in Similipal,” Dr Ramakrishnan informed PTI.

According to the 2018 tiger census, India has an estimated 2,967 tigers. Photos captured from Similipal in 2018 confirmed eight distinctive people, three of which had been ‘pseudomelanistic’ tigers, characterised by vast, merged stripes. Researchers labored with tiger specialists nationally to search for distinctive traits.

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