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Creation 40(2):12–14, April 2018

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Liligers: A testimony to the created kind

All cats today came from one feline pair on the Ark.

by

liliger
The liliger; a hybrid of a lion and a liger (a tiger-lion hybrid), it helps us understand how all living cats are related—but to each other, and not to dogs, horses, etc. as evolution would have it.

The world’s biggest cat is the liger, the offspring of a male lion and female tiger. Though ligers were previously thought to be sterile, there have been at least ten documented cases since 2012 where female1 ligers have successfully mated with lions to produce what are known as liligers.2 

Liligers rank second among the large cats for their size; smaller than a liger, they are bigger than both lions and tigers. Like both the lion and liger, the liliger has a light yellowish-brown fur, but it also has light spots on its body that somewhat resemble those of a leopard. These spots are inherited from its lion father. Baby lions are also born with spots, but they lose those spots as they get older (whereas a leopard normally does not—cf. Jeremiah 13:23). Liligers, however, maintain their spots throughout their life.

Of the ten documented liliger occurrences, only one is a male. The male liliger is slightly larger than the females, and also sports a mane, a characteristic it shares with male lions.

Breeding across boundaries

cat
Hybridization, of which liligers are just one example, shows that domestic cats descended from the same ancestral kind as the world’s mightiest jungle cats.

There are 39 living cat species in the world. Many cats are able to interbreed (hybridize) with other species of cats, as in the case of tigers and lions. And also, on occasion, they can interbreed with cats of another genus—sometimes even another subfamily.3 DNA sequencing studies have now allowed scientists to categorize all extant cat species into seven major lineages. Surprisingly, some cat species are able to breed across these lineages, while being unable to breed with other species in the same lineage.

This leaves the secular understanding of what exactly is a species in disarray. There are a number of different definitions of a species, but a popular one is to understand it as a group that breeds only among its members. So if two cat populations are reproductively compatible, they should be called the same biological species.

Conversely, the biblical teaching that things are to reproduce only ‘after their kind’ remains in very robust shape. The fact that these cats are generally able to interbreed across higher categories and even the different DNA lineage categories suggests that all came from one ancestral feline kind on board the Ark (see box below).4 

Species fixity—not biblical

Many falsely claim that the Bible teaches the ‘fixity of species’. This is the idea that new species do not arise. Genesis 1 tells us that things will only reproduce after their kind, but there is no reason to suppose that this matches the manmade category we call species. Biblical creationists both before and after Darwin realized that a creation model that is consistent with both observations and Genesis history (including the Ark and post-Flood dispersion) actually requires speciation (new species arising). Because if species were fixed, then in the case of cats alone, Noah would have had to take representatives of all 39 species (plus all post-Flood extinct ones). But if all cat species descended from one biblical kind, as the facts about cat hybridization would indicate, then he would not have had to take two lions, two tigers, two pumas, etc. etc. on board; just a pair of the original feline kind.

leopon
A leopon (pictured) is a cross between a male leopard (Panthera pardus) and a female lion (Panthera leo). A cross between a male lion and a female jaguar (Panthera onca) is called a liguar. Crossing a male leopon with a female liguar results in a leoliguar.

Furthermore, such speciation would have been relatively rapid.5 Ancient records from only centuries, not many millennia, after the Flood confirm that many different types of cat were already in existence. For instance, the Bible speaks of both lions and leopards in Song of Solomon 4:8, and ancient Egypt had domesticated cats.

Speedy speciation seen

The process of speciation, where one breeding population splits into two new ones, has not only been observed to take place, but to do so very rapidly, in just a few generations. So this in a sense fulfils a ‘prediction’ for a Genesis creation model.6 But it has surprised evolutionists, who expected it to take long periods of time. And importantly, new species have been seen to arise with no evidence of any new genetic information having appeared (which is what would be required for microbe-to-man evolution). All the information within the daughter populations is present in the parent population.

This sort of speciation can happen as animals adapt to different environments by natural selection as well as artificial selection by cat breeders.7 This is not the same as ‘evolution’; each ‘daughter’ population only has a subset of that original information.

The animals released after the Flood, with the Ice Age right on its heels,8 would have faced many new and rapidly changing environments in the recovering earth. So selection pressures would have been high, ideal conditions for the rapid formation of many new species.

Liligers, ligers, and other cat hybrids are testimony to the fact that all 39 extant cat species alive today (including the domestic house cat) likely came from one original feline/cat kind on board the Ark, which rapidly diversified soon after the Flood.4

Hybridization and the created kinds

Where separate species arise from an original kind via the ‘splitting by selection’ described in the main text, and especially where there has been further speciation within those again, a species may sometimes be unable to interbreed with others that have descended from the same kind. Thus, inability to hybridize does not necessarily mean that two species are not of the same kind. But where they can interbreed (whether the offspring is fertile or not), this is a clue to biblical creationists that they are members of the same kind. Such a hybridization criterion may sometimes show that two species that cannot hybridize with each other are nonetheless the same created kind.

For example (see diagram below): Say species A cannot interbreed with another species B. But it can interbreed with a third one, species C, which cannot breed with B. But C can breed with a fourth one, D, which in turn is able to interbreed with B. By deduction, if A and C are the same kind, and so are C and D, and D and B, then A and B must be the same kind. E.g. lions can interbreed with tigers but not with pumas, but lions and pumas can with leopards. And pumas can interbreed with ocelots, which can interbreed with margays, which can interbreed with domestic cats. This sort of thing is one of the reasons that biblical creationists today generally think that extant cat species are all descended from the same ancestral kind.1

hibridization

References and notes

  1. Pendragon, B., and Winkler, N., The family of cats—delineation of the feline basic type, J. Creation 25(2):118–124, August 2011, creation.com/the-cat-family.

References and notes

  1. The male hybrids are sterile, an example of Haldane’s rule—hybrids of the sex with different sex chromosomes are more likely to be sterile; male mammals are XY and females are XX. Return to text.
  2. Liliger—An offspring of lion and liger, Liger World, 2017, ligerworld.com/liliger.html. Where not referenced otherwise, the information on liligers is from this source. Return to text.
  3. Catchpoole, D., Cats big and small, Creation 37(4): 34–37, October 2015, creation.com/catsReturn to text.
  4. Pendragon, B., and Winkler, N., The family of cats—delineation of the feline basic type, J. Creation 25(2):118–124, August 2011, creation.com/cat-familyReturn to text.
  5. For several informative articles on species and kinds, see creation.com/speciationReturn to text.
  6. Catchpoole, D., and Wieland, C., Speedy species surprise, Creation 23(2):13–15, 2001, creation.com/speedyReturn to text.
  7. See creation.com/selection for informative articles on the topic of natural selection. Return to textReturn to text.
  8. Oard, M., What caused the Ice Age? Creation 36(3):52–55, 2014; creation.com/ice-age-causeReturn to text.

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