From the fantastic Milky Way Scientists Facebook page, meet the world’s largest living individual cat. It’s a big one!
Baby Liger Aries Joins Record Holder Big Brother Hercules
Hercules, famous for being the Guiness Book of World Record holder of largest cat, is now also a big brother – and at 900 pounds and standing at almost 6 feet tall, he is a really BIG brother!
Aries arrived four weeks ago at the Myrtle Beach Safari wildlife reserve in South Carolina. Aries, like Hercules, is a hybrid of a male lion and a tigress. [JAC: this is the cross that produces “ligers” of Napoleon Dynamite fame; the reverse cross produces “tiglons”.]
(T.I.G.E.R.S.) estimates that Aries will gain almost one pound a day (imagine having a “baby” that does that!)
The coupling of a lion and a tiger is almost unheard of outside of captivity, mostly because the two species are located on two different continents.
This last sentence is wrong: there are still a few lions native to Asia: they’re found in the Gir Forest of India.
Heeerre’s Hercules (And Aries):
The Wikipedia article on ligers (link above) says this about Hercules:
Jungle Island, an interactive animal theme park in Miami, is home to a liger named Hercules, the largest non-obese liger, who is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest living cat on Earth, weighing over 410 kg (904 lb). Hercules was featured on the Today Show, Good Morning America, Anderson Cooper 360, Inside Edition and in a Maxim article in 2005, when he was only 3 years old and already weighed 408.25 kg (900 lb). Hercules is completely healthy and is expected to live a long life. The cat’s breeding is said to have been a complete accident. Sinbad, another liger, was shown on the National Geographic Channel. Sinbad was reported to have the exact weight of Hercules.
Can these hybrids be fertile? Wikipedia suggests that one such hybrid did produce an offspring, but I think the documentation in general is spotty. The New World Encyclopedia says that male ligers are sterile but female ligers are often fertile. This is in accordance with Haldane’s rule, the generalization that if, in a cross between two different species, only one sex is sterile or inviable (the other being fertile and/or viable), the afflicted sex is the heterogametic one—the one whose sex chromosomes are different (i.e., XY in the case of ligers). In birds and butterflies, the heterogametic sex is female, and those are the sterile and inviable ones in species crosses. I spent much of my career trying to understand the reasons for this “rule.”