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Re: LIONS & TIGERS REVISITED
In a message dated 9/26/00 1:22:35 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
> So if [lions and tigers] not closely related (not that that matters to
> morphologies, which could be homoplastic rather than apomorphic), how come
> they produce viable hybrids? Have viable hybrids been produced between
> species of these two groups?
This has been discussed on the list before, but felids seem to be quite
plastic when it comes to the ability for members of fairly distantly related
species to produce viable (and even fertile) hybrids.
If recent studies are to be believed (and they seem reasonable to me),
leopard cats (_Prionailurus bengalensis_) and servals (_Leptailurus serval_)
are outgroups to the _Panthera_ cats; house cats (_Felis catus_) are on the
next branch out; and small South American cats like Geoffroy's cats
(_Oncifelis geoffroyi_) are fairly well separated from all the rest of the
modern felid species.
Yet Geoffroy's cats, servals, and leopard cats have all been bred with house
cats to produce healthy hybrids (even fertile ones, in the case of the female
offspring), known respectively as Safari cats, Savannah cats, and Bengals--I
happen to own one of the latter.
So the boundaries between felid species--and even suprageneric taxa--are
pretty fuzzy (no pun intended).
BTW, if I recall correctly, tigers do indeed have rosetted spots like
leopards and jaguars--it's just that tiger spots are extemely elongated top
to bottom. And since snow leopards, the immediate outgroup to the (rest of
the) _Panthera_ species, also display rosettes, these markings are probably
primitive for _Panthera_.