Opinion vs Fact
Unfortunately, the internet seems to be littered with incorrect assertions and assumptions about ligers. This is largely due to misinformation spread by the misinformed, and by individuals and groups who object to ligers as being “immoral” or “manmade” creatures. Ligers are the product of natural hybridization and have existed in the wild long before humans invented the wheel. They are not manmade. Many people are unaware of the prevalence and importance of natural hybridization and take a moral position against the existence of ligers. Morals and opinions are personal by nature and seem seldom swayed by scientific evidence.
The most common liger myths seem to surround outrageous claims of the diminished physical wellbeing inherent in ligers. Among the false claims are genetic abnormalities, shorter life spans, birth complications, special dietary needs, and growth disorders. These claims are unfounded and unsupported by scientific literature. Ligers are in fact healthy and long‐lived by nature.
While refuting every false claim about ligers might be a never‐ending job, we have highlighted the top 10 myths about ligers, things you are likely to read elsewhere on the internet.
Top Ten Myths About Ligers
(And why they are WRONG!)
- Myth #1: Ligers suffer from a variety of health problems due to genetic abnormalities.
WRONG! Ligers experience Hybrid Vigor (or heterosis), in which they inherit positive genes from both parents. They are bigger, stronger and tend to be healthier than both parents.
- Myth #2: Ligers have incomplete DNA.
WRONG! Lions and tigers have 19N chromosomes. That means that there are 19 pairs - one from the father and one from the mother. 19 x 2 = 38, for a total of 38 chromosomes. (source: 5tigers.org).
- Myth #3: Ligers have short life spans.
TOTALLY WRONG! Ligers live into their late teens and early twenties; just like lions and tigers in captivity. If anything, ligers tend to live a few years longer.
- Myth #4: Ligers are so large at birth the mother tiger must deliver by C-section.
NONSENSE! Liger cubs are the same size as tigers at birth. They weigh from half a pound to a pound at birth. They fit in the palm of your hand. The mother tiger weighs 350 pounds. Liger cubs are less than .01% of the mother's weight. Human babies are 5% of the mother's weight.
- Myth #5: Ligers suffer from "gigantism".
INCORRECT! Gigantism and acromegaly are disorders resulting from the overproduction of somatotropin, a growth hormone (GH), in the pituitary gland. This hypersomatotropism causes the abnormal overgrowth of bone, soft tissue and internal organs. Ligers absolutely do not suffer from these disorders. They gain their massive size from hybrid vigor, a natural phenomenon where a hybrid offspring inherits increases in such characteristics as size, growth rate, fertility, and yield of a hybrid organism (in the case of plants) over those of its parents. Hybrid vigor is a common natural process, not a disorder.
- Myth #6: The dietary needs of Ligers are so unique that they usually don't receive adequate food or nutrition.
FALSE! Ligers have the same dietary needs as their parent species. Ligers need only quality meats with commercially prepared big cat vitamins. They are expensive to care for because they have huge appetites, which is consistent with their size.
- Myth #7: It is unethical and unnatural to crossbreed different species.
FALSE! Hybridization is a profound part of the evolutionary process and a substantial part of the natural world. Claiming that hybridization is unethical is tantamount to shaming mother nature. After all, all humans on the planet are hybrids to varying degrees.
- Myth #8: There is no evidence that hybrids exist in the wild.
NOT TRUE! Natural hybridization exists virtually everywhere. It is a genetic process that allows new species to form (speciation), as well as species to share adaptive genes with each other (introgression). For a more in depth look of wild hybrids read our Other Hybrids page.
- Myth #9: The AZA forbids mixing of species and hybridization.
FALSE! The Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a private trade organization primarily with public zoo members. Many AZA zoos have produced and exhibited ligers and tigons. The Caribbean Gardens in Naples, Florida, the Hogle, Utah zoo and the Zoo of the Dakotas are three flagship AZA members that have exhibited ligers.
The AZA is private group and has no legal authority other than to remove members that do not follow their internal policies. A number of large zoological institutions (including the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, and the Montgomery Zoo) have left the ranks of AZA because of dogmatic policy requirements.
- Myth #10: Ligers serve no purpose, neither scientific nor conservational.
FALSE! Ligers are remarkable examples of natural hybridization. Blood and tissue samples from ligers are currently being examined by scientists at the genomic laboratories of Texas A&M university (one of the world leaders in big cat genome research) to better understand the prevalence and importance of hybridization among the Panthera felids.
Ligers, as animal ambassadors, capture the public's curiosity because of their enormous size and beauty. Ligers not only educate the public about big cats and species hybridization, they inspire guests to take an active role in helping save are the calling card for the endangered species of the world. Ligers, as animal ambassadors, have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support international in situ grass-roots conservation of endangered species. Ligers prove their importance time and time again.