Question Video: Determining the Characteristics of the Offspring of a Lion and a Tiger Biology

A female tiger and a male lion are mated in a zoo. Which of the following is correct about the cub they produce? [A] The cub will not survive longer than 4 — 5 years. [B] The cub will be able to reproduce successfully with both lions and tigers. [C] The cub is likely to be sterile and unable to have offspring of its own. [D] The cub will be classified in a different genus than both of its parents.

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Video Transcript

A female tiger and a male lion are mated in a zoo. Which of the following is correct about the cub they produce? The cub will not survive longer than four to five years. The cub will be able to reproduce successfully with both lions and tigers. The cub is likely to be sterile and unable to have offspring of its own. The cub will be classified in a different genus than both of its parents.

The question gives us the common name of two types of big cats and asks us to determine the correct statement about a cub they produce. When considering the outcome of mating two organisms, Latin binomial names are more useful than common names. So let’s start by looking at the binomial names for these two big cats. The binomial name for a tiger is Panthera tigris, and the binomial name for a lion is Panthera leo. The first word in a Latin binomial name tells us an organism’s genus, and the second word tells us its species. We can see that tigers and lions belong to the same genus, Panthera, but are different species.

A species is defined as a group of organisms with similar characteristics that can breed with each other to produce fertile offspring. For example, two dragonflies of the same species can breed with each other to produce offspring. And this offspring will be fertile, meaning that it can breed with members of the same species to produce its own offspring. On the other hand, two dragonflies of different species may be able to breed with each other to produce offspring. But this offspring would not be fertile, meaning that even if it were to breed with other dragonflies, it would not be able to produce its own offspring. We established earlier that tigers and lions are different species, so a cub that they produce is unlikely to be fertile.

Now let’s return to our answer choices to determine the correct one. “The cub will not survive longer than four to five years.” The offspring of a tiger and a lion is called a liger. Ligers have been known to live into their twenties, but we can’t make any definitive statements about the cub’s lifespan, so this statement is incorrect. “The cub will be able to reproduce successfully with both lions and tigers.” We know that the liger cub is unlikely to bear fertile offspring. So it won’t be able to reproduce successfully with lions or tigers. So this statement is also incorrect.

“The cub is likely to be sterile and unable to have offspring of its own.” Since the liger cub is the offspring of two different species, this statement is correct. “The cub will be classified in a different genus than both of its parents.” Tigers and lions belong to the same genus, Panthera. So their offspring are hybrid members of this genus as well. This statement is incorrect. Therefore, the correct answer is the cub will be sterile and unable to have offspring of its own.

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