Tigers and their close relatives (Panthera) are some of the world’s most endangered species. Here
we report the de novo assembly of an Amur tiger whole-genome sequence as well as the genomic
sequences of a white Bengal tiger, African lion, white African lion and snow leopard. Through
comparative genetic analyses of these genomes, we find genetic signatures that may reflect
molecular adaptations consistent with the big cats’ hypercarnivorous diet and muscle strength.
We report a snow leopard-specific genetic determinant in EGLN1 (Met394Lys39), which is likely
to be associated with adaptation to high altitude. We also detect a TYR260G4A mutation likely
responsible for the white lion coat colour. Tiger and cat genomes show similar repeat composition
and an appreciably conserved synteny. Genomic data from the five big cats provide an invaluable
resource for resolving easily identifiable phenotypes evident in very close, but distinct, species.