An extinct and deeply divergent tiger lineage from northeastern China recognized through palaeogenomics

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Jiaming Hu
  • Westbury, Michael Vincent
  • Junxia Yuan
  • Chunxue Wang
  • Bo Xiao
  • Shungang Chen
  • Shiwen Song
  • Linying Wang
  • Haifeng Lin
  • Xulong Lai
  • Guilian Sheng

Tigers (Panthera tigris) are flagship big cats and attract extensive public attention due to their charismatic features and endangered status. Despite this, little is known about their prehistoric lineages and detailed evolutionary histories. Through palaeogenomic analyses, we identified a Pleistocene tiger from northeastern China, dated to beyond the limits of radiocarbon dating (greater than 43 500 years ago). We used a simulated dataset and different reads processing pipelines to test the validity of our results and confirmed that, in both mitochondrial and nuclear phylogenies, this ancient individual belongs to a previously unknown lineage that diverged prior to modern tiger diversification. Based on the mitochondrial genome, the divergence time of this ancient lineage was estimated to be approximately 268 ka (95% CI: 187-353 ka), doubling the known age of tigers' maternal ancestor to around 125 ka (95% CI: 88-168 ka). Furthermore, by combining our findings with putative mechanisms underlying the discordant mito-nuclear phylogenetic placement for the South China tigers, we proposed a more complex scenario of tiger evolution that would otherwise be missed using data from modern tigers only. Our study provides the first glimpses of the genetic antiquity of tigers and demonstrates the utility of aDNA-based investigation for further understanding tiger evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20220617
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1979
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s).

    Research areas

  • evolution, palaeogenomics, Panthera tigris, Pleistocene, tiger

ID: 324556050