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ESR 48:87-97 (2022)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01188

Phylogeography of Panthera tigris in the mangrove forest of the Sundarbans

M. Abdul Aziz1,6,*, Olutolani Smith2, Hazel A. Jackson1, Simon Tollington1,3, Sean Darlow1, Adam Barlow4, M. Anwarul Islam5, Jim Groombridge1

1Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, Canterbury CT2 7NZ, UK
2Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK
3School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Brackenhurst, Southwell, Nottinghamshire NG25 0QF, UK
4WildTeam UK, Surfside, St. Merryn, Padstow, Cornwall PL28 8NU, UK
5WildTeam, Bangladesh and Department of Zoology, University of Dhaka, Dhaka 1000, Bangladesh
6Present address: Department of Zoology, Jahangirnagar University, Savar, Dhaka 1342, Bangladesh
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Tigers Panthera tigris in the Sundarbans represent the only population adapted to living in mangrove forest habitat. Several studies, based on limited morphological and genetic data, have described the population as being differentiated from the Bengal tiger subspecies P. tigris tigris. The phylogenetic ancestry of the Sundarbans population has also remained poorly understood. We generated 1263 bp of mtDNA sequences across 4 mtDNA genes for 33 tiger samples from the Bangladesh Sundarbans and compared these with 33 mtDNA haplotypes known from all subspecies of extant tigers. We detected 3 haplotypes within the Sundarbans tigers, of which one is unique to this population and the remaining 2 are shared with tiger populations inhabiting central Indian landscapes. Phylogenetic analyses using maximum likelihood and Bayesian inferences supported the Sundarbans tigers as being paraphyletic, indicating a close phylogenetic relationship with other populations of Bengal tigers, from which the Sundarbans population diverged around 26000 yr ago. Our phylogenetic analyses, together with evidence of ecological adaptation to the unique mangrove habitat, indicate that the Sundarbans population should be recognised as a separate management unit. We recommend that conservation management must focus on sustaining this representative tiger population adapted to mangrove habitat while at the same time recognising that trans-boundary conservation efforts through reintroduction or exchange of individuals, to enhance genetic diversity, might be needed in the future as a last resort for population recovery.


KEY WORDS: Bangladesh · Haplotype · Management unit · Phylogeny · Tiger


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Cite this article as: Aziz MA, Smith O, Jackson HA, Tollington S and others (2022) Phylogeography of Panthera tigris in the mangrove forest of the Sundarbans. Endang Species Res 48:87-97. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01188

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