After a gap of almost 3 years, the rarest of the Bengal tiger morph (the golden morph) has surfaced again in Kaziranga National Park, bringing in cheer and delight to all visitors and scientists alike.
Gaurav Ramnarayanan, who was visiting the Park and being escorted by local tour guide Buddheshwar Konwar, observed the adult male golden tiger from a distance.
The Kaziranga National Park authorities in a statement has informed that the diverse forms of pigmentation phenotypes are known in many species of birds, butterflies, wild ungulates, domesticated animals and also in humans. Phenotypic variations are driven by evolutionary forces such as selection and random genetic drift.
“Tigers have unique striping patterns that is known to exist in several coat colour variants. The most famous being the pseudo-melanistic (or darker) morph that is found in the wild at Simlipal Tiger Reserve in Odisha. The white tiger pelage is a recessive trait and such individuals are now only confined to zoos,” the statement reads.
It also mentioned that the golden phenotype (as demonstrated by the Kaziranga Tiger) is also a rare recessive trait and is currently being investigated through non-invasive scat sampling and DNA mapping by scientists Prof. Uma Ramakrishnan and her team at National Centre for Biological Sciences.
“As both pseudo-melanistic and golden phenotypes are expressed as recessive traits, their occurrence in natural population suggests an even large number of heterozygotes in the population, which can only be detected through genetic analyses (as the heterozygotes look the same as a normal tiger). However, if such heterozygotes are present in numbers less than expected from theoretical values, it might suggest a lack of genetic connectivity. In such a case, it might be critical to maintain habitat connectivity to sustain the natural variation and reduce the threat of extinction,” added the authorities in the statement.