Chinese scientists have acquired new insights into how white tigers get their colouration. The researchers have traced the cause to a single change in a gene known to drive pigmentation in a host of animals, including humans. White tigers are a rare alternative of the customary orange Bengal sub-species. Today, they are found exclusively in captive programmers where the limited numbers are interbred to maintain the distinctive fur colour.
Shu-Jin Luo of Peking University and colleagues report in the journal Current Biology how they investigated the genetics of a family of tigers living in Chime long Safari Park in Panyu, Guangzhou Province. The study zeroed in on the tincture gene called SLC45A2, which has long been associated with the light coloration seen in some human populations, and in a range of other animals including horses, chickens, and fish.