Korean tiger still alive

Posted on : 2012-02-08 13:07 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Animal thought extinct found to be genetically consistent with tigers in Russian Far East

By Lee Keun-young, Senior Staff Writer


Scholarship has found that the Korean tiger, though to have become extinct following a policy by imperial Japan in the 1900s for the large-scale elimination of dangerous beasts, shares the same genetic origins as the Amur (Siberian) tiger of the Russian Far East.

A team led by Professor Lee Hang at Seoul National University’s College of Veterinary Medicine announced on Tuesday that the results of genetic analyses of four samples taken from 100-year-old Korean tigers preserved in natural history museums in the US and Japan indicated that the Korean tiger and the extant Amur tiger had genetic sequences that corresponded perfectly. In other words, a total of six subspecies of tiger survives today and the Amur tiger, which lives in the Russian Far East, and the Korean tiger belong to the same subspecies.

Based on three samples taken from the bones of Korean tigers found in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History and a sample of bone powder extracted by drill from the molar bone in the skull of another Korean tiger from the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo, the research team analyzed mitochondrial genes. Two of the American samples and the Japanese sample corresponded 100% genetically to the Amur tiger. Genes from the remaining American sample corresponded to those of a Malay tiger, leading the team to conclude that American doctor Rod Smith, who collected the samples, had got them mixed up by mistake or that the museum had made an error in its records.

“The fact that the Amur tiger and the Korean tiger are of the same bloodline means the Korean tiger is still alive,” said Lee. “The future of the Korean tiger depends on preservation of the remaining Amur tiger population, which comprises only around 400 tigers.” The research results have been published by the Korean Society of Systematic Zoology in an international academic journal on animal descent, evolution and diversity that was first published in January this year.


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