Maltese tiger

Maltese tiger

Overview
The Maltese tiger, or blue tiger, is a sub species coloration morph of a tiger
Tiger
The tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to and weighing up to . Their most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with lighter underparts...

, reported mostly in the Fujian Province of China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. It is said to have bluish fur with dark grey stripes. Most of the Maltese tigers reported have been of the South Chinese
South China Tiger
The South China tiger is a tiger subspecies that originated in southern China and northern Indochina and has been classified as critically endangered by IUCN since 1996 as it is possibly extinct in the wild....

 subspecies. The South Chinese tiger today is critically endangered, and the "blue" allele
Allele
An allele is one of two or more forms of a gene or a genetic locus . "Allel" is an abbreviation of allelomorph. Sometimes, different alleles can result in different observable phenotypic traits, such as different pigmentation...

s may be wholly extinct. Blue tigers have also been reported in Korea, home of Siberian tigers.

The term "Maltese
Maltese cat
Maltese cat is a name that is often given to any cat whose fur is either completely, or primarily, gray or blue and is of indeterminate breed. Many cats with such colouration are supposedly present on the island of Malta, which may have given rise to the use of the adjective in this context...

" comes from domestic cat terminology for blue
Blue
Blue is a colour, the perception of which is evoked by light having a spectrum dominated by energy with a wavelength of roughly 440–490 nm. It is considered one of the additive primary colours. On the HSV Colour Wheel, the complement of blue is yellow; that is, a colour corresponding to an equal...

 fur, and refers to the slate grey coloration.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Maltese tiger'
Start a new discussion about 'Maltese tiger'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
The Maltese tiger, or blue tiger, is a sub species coloration morph of a tiger
Tiger
The tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to and weighing up to . Their most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with lighter underparts...

, reported mostly in the Fujian Province of China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. It is said to have bluish fur with dark grey stripes. Most of the Maltese tigers reported have been of the South Chinese
South China Tiger
The South China tiger is a tiger subspecies that originated in southern China and northern Indochina and has been classified as critically endangered by IUCN since 1996 as it is possibly extinct in the wild....

 subspecies. The South Chinese tiger today is critically endangered, and the "blue" allele
Allele
An allele is one of two or more forms of a gene or a genetic locus . "Allel" is an abbreviation of allelomorph. Sometimes, different alleles can result in different observable phenotypic traits, such as different pigmentation...

s may be wholly extinct. Blue tigers have also been reported in Korea, home of Siberian tigers.

The term "Maltese
Maltese cat
Maltese cat is a name that is often given to any cat whose fur is either completely, or primarily, gray or blue and is of indeterminate breed. Many cats with such colouration are supposedly present on the island of Malta, which may have given rise to the use of the adjective in this context...

" comes from domestic cat terminology for blue
Blue
Blue is a colour, the perception of which is evoked by light having a spectrum dominated by energy with a wavelength of roughly 440–490 nm. It is considered one of the additive primary colours. On the HSV Colour Wheel, the complement of blue is yellow; that is, a colour corresponding to an equal...

 fur, and refers to the slate grey coloration. Many cats with such colouration are present in Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

, which may have given rise to the use of the adjective in this context.

Sightings


Around 1910, Harry Caldwell, an American missionary and big game hunter, spotted and hunted a blue tiger outside Fuzhou
Fuzhou
Fuzhou is the capital and one of the largest cities in Fujian Province, People's Republic of China. Along with the many counties of Ningde, those of Fuzhou are considered to constitute the Mindong linguistic and cultural area....

. His search is chronicled in his book Blue Tiger (1924), and by his hunting companion Roy Chapman Andrews
Roy Chapman Andrews
Roy Chapman Andrews was an American explorer, adventurer and naturalist who became the director of the American Museum of Natural History. He is primarily known for leading a series of expeditions through the fragmented China of the early 20th century into the Gobi Desert and Mongolia...

 in his Camps & Trails in China (1925, chapter VII). Chapman cites Caldwell thus:
A more recent report, given to Mystery Cats of the World author Karl Shuker
Karl Shuker
Karl P. N. Shuker is a British zoologist, cryptozoologist, and author living in the West Midlands, England. He works as a full-time freelance zoological consultant, media consultant, and noted author specializing in cryptozoology.- Career :...

, comes from the son of a US Army soldier who served in Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

 during the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

. His father sighted a blue tiger in the mountains near what is now the Demilitarized Zone
Korean Demilitarized Zone
The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula that serves as a buffer zone between North and South Korea. The DMZ cuts the Korean Peninsula roughly in half, crossing the 38th parallel on an angle, with the west end of the DMZ lying south of the parallel and...

. Blue tigers have also been reported from Burma.

The black tiger
Black tiger (animal)
A black tiger is a rare colour variant of the tiger and is not a distinct species or geographic subspecies. There are reports and one painting of pure black non-striped tigers . Most black mammals are due to the non-agouti mutation. Agouti refers to the ticking of each individual hair...

 was also long considered mythical, but several pelts have proven that pseudo-melanistic or hypermelanic tigers do exist. They are not wholly black, but have dense, wide stripes that partially obscure the orange background colour.

Genetics

See also: Cat coat genetics
Cat coat genetics
The genetics of cat coat coloration, pattern, length, and texture is a complex subject, and many different genes are involved.- Genes involved in albinism, dominant white, and white spotting :...


In support of the blue tiger theory, Maltese-colored cats certainly do exist. The most common are a domestic cat breed, the Russian Blue
Russian Blue
The Russian Blue is a cat breed that has a silver-blue coat. These cats are known to be highly intelligent and playful but tend to be timid around strangers...

, and a variety of the British Shorthair
British Shorthair
The British Shorthair is a domesticated cat whose features make it a popular breed in cat shows. It has been the most popular breed of cat registered by the UK's Governing Council of the Cat Fancy since 2001, when it overtook the Persian breed....

, the British Blue, but blue bobcat
Bobcat
The bobcat is a North American mammal of the cat family Felidae, appearing during the Irvingtonian stage of around 1.8 million years ago . With twelve recognized subspecies, it ranges from southern Canada to northern Mexico, including most of the continental United States...

s and lynx
Lynx
A lynx is any of the four Lynx genus species of medium-sized wildcats. The name "lynx" originated in Middle English via Latin from Greek word "λύγξ", derived from the Indo-European root "*leuk-", meaning "light, brightness", in reference to the luminescence of its reflective eyes...

es have also been recorded, and there are genetic mutations and combinations that result in bluish hue, or at least in the impression of a blue-gray animal. Shuker suggested that blue tigers possessed two different pairs of recessive alleles - the non-agouti (s/s), and the dilute (d/d) which combine to produce a solid blue-gray colour as found in domestic cats such as the British Blue and Russian Blue, but would not produce the striped blue tigers reported.

Simply combining non-agouti and dilute alleles would probably indeed result in a greyish or "maltese" tiger, but such an animal would have hardly-visible stripes or none at all: Normal tigers switch between agouti (orange) and non-agouti (black) in different areas of their pelage, as well as suppressing melanin production thoroughly (white). The non-agouti mutation would produce animals similar to black panther
Black panther
A black panther is typically a melanistic color variant of any of several species of larger cat. Wild black panthers in Latin America are black jaguars , in Asia and Africa they are black leopards , and in North America they may be black jaguars or possibly black cougars A black panther is...

s which have only a "ghost" pattern, all hair being black but the hairs of their rosettes retaining a different texture and thus, "black-on-black" rosettes are visible under appropriate lighting. Combined with all-dilute alleles, the color would be grey, but it would still result in an unstriped or ghost-striped tiger.

For a Maltese-and-striped fur, pheomelanin production must probably be suppressed (to switch from an orange to a greyish color) but agouti retained (to yield darker stripes); perhaps some hypermelanism would also be present, to produce an animal with a non-white belly as reported by Caldwell. Indeed, such a genotype is known in cheetah
Cheetah
The cheetah is a large-sized feline inhabiting most of Africa and parts of the Middle East. The cheetah is the only extant member of the genus Acinonyx, most notable for modifications in the species' paws...

s, where it produces animals that are bluish gray with dark slate grey pattern. If factors such as lighting conditions are accounted for, this makes a reasonable match with Caldwell's individual.

A variant expression of the non-inhibited pigment ("chinchilla ") allele - the allele in other contexts producing white tiger
White tiger
The white tiger is a recessive mutant of the Bengal tiger, which was reported in the wild from time to time in Assam, Bengal, Bihar and especially from the former State of Rewa.-Color comparison:...

s - is also sometimes deemed possible. This would produce a "haze" effect over the whole body. Combined with a pheomelanin suppression, it would produce a white animal with light gray pattern; such specimens are also known in the Cheetah.

Possible distribution


In small or isolated populations, genetic drift
Genetic drift
Genetic drift or allelic drift is the change in the frequency of a gene variant in a population due to random sampling.The alleles in the offspring are a sample of those in the parents, and chance has a role in determining whether a given individual survives and reproduces...

 can fix unusual traits such as aberrant coloration. A non-harmful mutation can soon become widespread in small, isolated populations. Moreover, if the mutant gene confers benefits, such as better camouflage, then affected individuals may out-compete those without the mutation; this would happen faster in a small inbred
Inbreeding
Inbreeding is the reproduction from the mating of two genetically related parents. Inbreeding results in increased homozygosity, which can increase the chances of offspring being affected by recessive or deleterious traits. This generally leads to a decreased fitness of a population, which is...

 population close to panmixia
Panmixia
Panmixia means random mating.A panmictic population is one where all individuals are potential partners. This assumes that there are no mating restrictions, neither genetic or behavioural, upon the population, and that therefore all recombination is possible...

.

External links