Thursday, August 5, 2010

Creature Feature: Ligers.

No, these big cat crosses were not bred for their skills in magic as Napoleon Dynamite would suggest. The liger is a real creature with a lion (Panthera leo) father and tigress (Panthera tigris) mother. The opposite combination, a tiglon, rarely lives past birth. Both of these hybrids are fertile. The two species would never meet or mate in the wild, but in captivity, accidents happen.

Normally, lions and tigers are kept separately. Since ligers like Hercules have become huge (seriously!) draws, however, more zoos have deliberately crossed the two. If reptile breeders cross giant snakes for the hell of it, why not do the same for giant cats?

Pictured: SCIENCE. No booze involved.

A pairing between a lion and a tiger results in the biggest of the big cats known to mankind. Ligers can get up to 900 pounds and, when standing on their hind legs, reach up to 12 feet in height. This is, at least partially, because lionesses have a growth-inhibiting gene. No lioness in there means that the liger is one big kitty.

Don't try this at home. As the video says, big cats need a lot of food, and there are already a fair amount of homeless Panthera specimens. Let the big cats stay with people who are licensed to handle them. (No, I do not know how one gets 'started' with big cats...but it probably involves working at a zoo.)

You can, however, get a robotic liger with absolutely no prior training. Just like kids in Japan!

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