If you had any doubts, put an end to it right away! Yes, animals of different species, subspecies or genera can reproduce. In genetics, this gives rise to what is called a hybrid. Thus, although little known to the general public, crosses between a lion and a tiger do exist. But are they natural or are they the result of human intervention?
The liger: when a male lion meets a female tiger
The liger is the result of the fertilization of a tigress by a male lion.
The lion and the panther both belong to the same genus, the Panthera, as their scientific name suggests. The lion is called Panthera leo and the tiger is calledPanthera tigris.
However, the African lion lives in sub-Saharan Africa where there is no tiger. As for the Asiatic lion, it lives protected in the Gir Forest National Park, in the state of Gujarat. Tigers are mainly present in India where Kaziranga National Park is said to be home to between 90 and 100 individuals, the densest population of tigers in the world. In addition, the lion and the tiger have very different behaviors and habitats. The chances that a male lion and a female tiger will cross paths in the wild are almost nil. This crossing is therefore observed in the zoos.
What does a liger look like? He has the light red coat of a tiger, but the stripes on his coat are very pale. Males have a short mane that does not return to the forehead of the animal. They are the largest felines in the world, being able to weigh heavier than their two parents put together, that is to say more than 400 kg. Their size is around 3.50 m long, including tail. A liger named Hercules entered the Guinness Book of Records in 2006. Born in the United States, he was 3.60 m tall and weighed 410 kg. On the behavior side, the liger is a real mixed of both parents: it can live alone like the tiger but also accept the presence of small family groups like the lion. They also like to swim, like tigers.
The tiger: when a male tiger meets a lioness
Contrary to what intuition might suggest, whether the father is a tiger or a lion has different consequences. Thus, when the father is a tiger and the female a lioness, it no longer results in a liger but a tiger.
Her fur is fawn and her dress can be decorated with spots and streaks. Unlike the liger, which is an animal of almost gigantic proportions, the tiger remains similar in size to that of its mother.
The differences in dimensions between ligers and tigons are explained by a uncomfortable which is expressed differently according to the sex of the parents. This gene is said to be subject to parental imprint. The scientific identification of such genes is recent, dating only to the 1990s.
To go further in understanding hybrids
If nature does not, it is because the mixture of animal genera produces anomalies. Male ligers never initiate puberty and therefore cannot reproduce. On the other hand, females could reproduce, but they cannot breastfeed their young. In addition, ligers often present heart problems because their organs are not sized to support their very heavy weight. Some specialists disapprove of these manipulations which do not add much to the conservation of species. In 2011, when the lioness at Changzhou Chinese Zoo gave birth to two tigons, one of them soon died. Another example is that of the Wild Animal Safari at Pine Mountain in Georgia (USA), an institute which had 24 ligers. Of these, only three were normal and all of them presented with mental problems.
However, among cats, the creation of hybrids does not present the same problems as in the big wild cats. The hybridization of the domestic cat with another species of feline can also be natural. The Bengal resulting from the crossing of a domestic cat with a Bengal leopard cat is thus very successful.
Photo credit: Hkandy