Predicted Pleistocene–Holocene range shifts of the tiger (Panthera tigris) - NMS Research Repository
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Journal article

Predicted Pleistocene–Holocene range shifts of the tiger (Panthera tigris)

11 November 2016

Abstract

Aim In this article, we modelled the potential range shifts of tiger (Panthera tigris) populations over the Late Pleistocene and Holocene, to provide new insights into the evolutionary history and interconnectivity between populations of this endangered species. Location Asia. Methods We used an ecological niche approach and applied a maximum entropy (Maxent) framework to model potential distributions of tigers. Bioclimatic conditions for the present day and mid-Holocene, and for the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), were used to represent interglacial and glacial conditions of the Late Pleistocene, respectively. Results Our results show that the maximum potential tiger range during modern climates (without human impacts) would be continuous from the Indian subcontinent to north-east Siberia. During the LGM, distributions are predicted to have contracted to southern China, India and Southeast Asia and remained largely contiguous. A potential distribution gap between Peninsular Malaya and Sumatra could have effectively separated tigers on the Sunda Islands from those in continental Asia during interglacials. Main conclusions The continuous modelled distribution of tigers in mainland Asia supports the idea of mainly unimpeded gene flow between all populations throughout the Late Pleistocene and Holocene. Thus, our data support a pragmatic approach to tiger conservation management, especially of mainland populations, as it is likely that only recent anthropogenic changes caused separation of these populations. In contrast, Sunda tigers are likely to have separated and differentiated following the Last Glacial Maximum and thus warrant separate management.

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