Researchers have sequenced the genomes of tigers, snow leopards and lions hoping to help in conservation efforts for the critically threatened big cats, The Christian Science Monitor reports.
Among their findings is the fact the common domestic house cat shares about 95.6% of its DNA with tigers, from which they diverged on the evolutionary tree about 10.8 million years ago.
Other findings included the identification of the various genes that make the big cats big, that allow them to be carnivores, and that make snow leopards adept at surviving in a high-altitude, low-oxygen environment.
The new data will help scientists measure biodiversity in the wild and assist in ensuring that populations are not in-breeding with too-close relatives, a significant challenge in seriously threatened species. Only between 3,050 and 3,950 tigers are estimated to remain in the wild.