What am I sappy cat blogging?

May 31, 2013


These beautiful creatures are white tigers.  As you can see from the black stripes, these tigers are not albinos.  Researchers in in China’s Chimelong Safari Park sequenced the genome of white tigers and their normal colored relatives.  They found a variation in just one gene, SLC45A2, that makes the difference, and makes white tigers white:

The SLC45A2 gene makes a protein of the same name, which consists of 560 amino acids. A single mutation in the gene—a change in just one DNA letter—switches one of those 560 amino acids from an alanine to a valine. This distorts the protein’s shape, and potentially prevents it from taking part in the creation of red-yellow melanin. Every white tiger has two copies of this mutated gene, and can only make the distorted protein. That’s all it takes to change their coats from orange to white.

Read more about the research, the white tigers, and the plight of tigers in the wild at National Geographic’s Phenomena: Not Exactly Rocket Science.


  1. You can take the cat out of the jungle but you can’t can’t leave them there anymore. Unsafe for tigers of any stripe. Too bad really.

    • Agreed. There was mention in the story that there is a debate about saving these white tigers that are an isolated population, rather than spending the resources to protect more tigers in the wild.

      I think that importing tigers to Ohio may help control the white-tailed deer population here. Win-win

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