White, Yellow and Black: What are the Differences Among These Types of Tiger?

White, Yellow and Black: What are the Differences Among These Types of Tiger

White, Yellow and Black: What are the Differences Among These Types of Tiger

Share this news

To shed light on the genetic anomalies and conservation statuses of these amazing animals, let us examine the distinctions between black, white and yellow tigers.

By Khushi Maheshwari

As the largest Asian big cat, tigers have long piqued people’s curiosity. Not only do their striking hue variations set them out visually, but they also beg a closer look at their environmental and genetic histories.

Black Tigers

Melanistic tigers, commonly referred to as black tigers, are a rare genetic variation of the Bengal tiger species that are primarily found in India. The first black tiger sighting in scientific records dates back to 1990, and it came from the Similipal Tiger Reserve in Odisha, India. The darker fur of these tigers is due to a genetic overabundance of melanin.

Compared to other tigers, black tigers have more evenly spaced stripes and, due to their rich colouring, often appear to be completely black. With fewer than ten sightings in the previous three decades, black tigers remain an enigmatic presence in the wild.

White Tigers

White Tigers are one of a kind, not because they are albinos, but rather due to a recessive gene that causes leucism. This genetic disorder was found in the wild in 1951 near Rewa in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Unlike albinism, leucism allows for the occurrence of stripes and blue eyes. The Maharaja of Rewa caught Mohan, the first white tiger that was known to exist. Mohan went on to become the progenitor of multiple captive-bred white tigers. White tigers are extremely rare in the wild and are almost exclusively found in zoos and sanctuaries these days.

Yellow Tigers

The yellow or orange tiger, or Panthera tigris, is the most prevalent and well-known coloration. Most of these tigers live in Asia, from the tropical forests of Indonesia to the frigid wastes of Siberia. In contrast to the traditional yellow tiger, they have dark vertical stripes and fur that ranges in colour from pale yellow to reddish-orange.

Their colouring allows them to fit right in with their natural surroundings. India has the largest concentration of yellow tigers in the world, making up over 70% of all wild tigers worldwide.

Genetic influence on colour variations:

The variations in tiger colour are caused by specific genetic mutations. Black tigers’ pigmentation is caused by a variant of the Tabby/Agouti gene, which regulates the distribution of black pigment. A mutation in the SLC45A2 gene is the cause of leucism in white tigers. The unique colour of yellow tigers is a result of the combination of the pigments pheomelanin and eumelanin. These genetic differences do not affect a tiger’s size or temperament, but they can affect how visible the animal is in the wild and how susceptible it is to certain health issues.

Ethical Dilemma: should breeding happen for colour?

Breeding tigers for specific colour features raises ethical concerns, particularly when the animals are kept in captivity. For example, because they are often inbred to maintain their pigment, white tigers are more susceptible to health problems like deformities and vision impairment. The emphasis on breeding for aesthetic reasons undermines the larger goals of conservation and the preservation of genetic variation. At the centre of ethical debates are the animals’ well-being and the significance of conservation efforts that benefit the species as a whole rather than just particular colour variations.

Hurdles in Conservation:

No matter how different their colours may be, tigers must be conserved. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that the number of wild tigers in the world is currently only 3,900. Their survival is severely hampered by poaching, habitat loss, and conflicts between people and wildlife. Conservation projects like India’s 1973 Project Tiger aim to increase the number of tigers and preserve their habitats by involving the community and fighting poaching. Despite our best efforts, the illegal trafficking of tiger parts and the desire for unusual pets continue to put these magnificent creatures in danger.