The development and validation of a single SNaPshot multiplex for tiger species and subspecies identification—Implications for forensic purposes

Thitika Kitpipit, Shanan S. Tobe, Andrew C. Kitchener, Peter Gill, Adrian Linacre

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The tiger (Panthera tigris) is currently listed on Appendix I of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora; this affords it the highest level of international protection. To aid in the investigation of alleged illegal trade in tiger body parts and derivatives, molecular approaches have been developed to identify biological material as being of tiger in origin. Some countries also require knowledge of the exact tiger subspecies present in order to prosecute anyone alleged to be trading in tiger products. In this study we aimed to develop and validate a reliable single assay to identify tiger species and subspecies simultaneously; this test is based on identification of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the tiger mitochondrial genome. The mitochondrial DNA sequence from four of the five extant putative tiger subspecies that currently exist in the wild were obtained and combined with DNA sequence data from 492 tiger and 349 other mammalian species available on GenBank. From the sequence data a total of 11 SNP loci were identified as suitable for further analyses. Five SNPs were species-specific for tiger and six amplify one of the tiger subspecies-specific SNPs, three of which were specific to P. t. sumatrae and the other three were specific to P. t. tigris. The multiplex assay was able to reliably identify 15 voucher tiger samples. The sensitivity of the test was 15,000 mitochondrial DNA copies (approximately 0.26 pg), indicating that it will work on trace amounts of tissue, bone or hair samples. This simple test will add to the DNA-based methods currently being used to identify the presence of tiger within mixed samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250–257
Number of pages8
JournalForensic Science International: Genetics
Issue number2
Early online date1 Jul 2011
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


  • mitochondrial DNA
  • SNP
  • SNaPshot multiplex kit
  • tiger species
  • subspecies

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