Groundbreaking Study at Stanford Sequences Generic Tiger Genome

The tiger whose genes will stand for all American generic tigers is In-Sync Exotics’ Kylo Ren! 

(WYLIE, TX – March 22, 2019) Stanford University’s Hadly Lab has been working with In-Sync Exotics in Wylie and additional Tigers In America sanctuaries to gather genetic samples from a number of generic tigers in order to understand and explore the relationship between the ‘pure’ genetic tiger species and those from tigers which are rescued by sanctuaries like In-Sync Exotics.

Pure sub-species are exemplified by the AZA Species Survival Plan (SSP) tigers (Amur, Sumatran and Malaysian) and the Bengal SSP which is managed by the Indian government. The AZA, the Indian government, and TIA are partners and contributors to this project.

You have probably wondered which of the original (Amur, Sumatran, Malaysian, Bengal, etc.) sub-species genes have gone into the tigers you know at In-Sync Exotics. Different genes can contribute to differences in appearance and perhaps tiger behavior. Doesn’t Anakin look Siberian? Lighter versus darker coat colors, how dense are their stripes, how big are they compared to the other tigers? Generic tigers are generally thought to be a mix of these ‘pure’ sub-species and Stanford has been working on analyzing the genetic makeup of the tigers who have been part of this continuing project. Samples have been gathered from fur, whiskers, feces and — if a tiger is undergoing necessary medical or dental procedures that require sedation — blood samples and mouth swabs.

A key component of this work is the analysis and compilation of a Generic Tiger Reference Genome. Ellie Armstrong of Stanford selected Kylo Ren for this complete genome mapping project as he embodies so many of the issues that impact generic tigers: inbreeding, a white coat, a mysterious background. OK, we know his parents, but where did they come from? And why? Some day, not too far into the future, we think we will be able to answer these questions, and many more. Think or 23andMe for tigers!

Genetics is largely a game of analysis and big-time computational power. Ellie’s analysis of Kylo Ren involved 2.4 Billion genetic base pairs. While other tiger genomes have been sequenced, Kylo Ren’s genome is set to serve as the reference genome — meaning a much more complete version of the genome which will serve as a representative sample for the tiger species.

The Poster Tiger for Generic Tigers is Kylo Ren and to the right is a photo of the next round of analysis at the very first step. A formal presentation of the Stanford/TIA project will be published this year in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

The Poster Lion for the Lion branch of Ellie’s work is Brooke, at the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Indiana. Turns out that the African lion genome is even more confusing than those of the tigers!


In-Sync Exotics, a non-profit organization established in 2000, is dedicated to the rescue of neglected, abused, and unwanted exotic felines. American Sanctuary Association (ASA) accredited, Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) verified, a member of Tigers in America as well as the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance (BCAS), In-Sync provides the highest quality care for the 77 exotic animals that reside at the sanctuary.

Photos courtesy of In-Sync. 

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