This article is from
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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Readers’ comments

Norman P.
Lots to think about in this article. Post-Flood speciation of original kinds off the ark would need to have been incredibly rapid, plus many extinctions - perhaps all within a thousand year time span, or less. The Bible hints at major topographical and climatic changes in the post Flood earth, as well as a shift in dietary behaviours. I tend to believe that the God who could change water into wine, heal the sick, give sight to the blind, feed the five thousand, and raise from the dead, would likely also have actively influenced this rapid adjustment of the biosphere. He is after all, the Creator and Sustainer of life, and in whom all things consist. Today, in a more discrete form, we call it 'Providence'.
The role of Creation Ministries (it seems to me) is to defend the scientific credibility of God's word, as opposed to the error and cultural apostasy that stems from atheistic naturalism. Yours and other ministries have done a tremendous job in this regard. But are there not still 'legitimate' credibility gaps? Because of the Fall, I believe the testimony of God had to involve faith - not groundless, unreasonable faith - but Holy Spirit led faith, which also turns out to be eminently reasonable (despite the areas where we simply don't know, because it has not been revealed). There are areas where God hides Himself (Isaiah 45.15; 1 Corinthians 1:19-30), and others where He reveals Himself, especially in His earthly Messianic ministry. Yet though Christ did so many miracles among them, most did not believe in Him as their Saviour-God (John 15:24). I believe in acknowledging the credibility gaps, and dealing with them in the light of Scripture as a whole, we avoid some of the obstructiveness of the 'blockers and knockers' within the Church.
Joel Tay
I do not understand what you mean by 'credibility' issue. Good science is always consistent with the Bible. Rapid speciation after the flood is exactly what the Bible teaches, so this fits very nicely with Scripture.

Consider:

Genesis 15:8–9 — But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”

Here, we read about a female goat, and a ram. These are the same biblical kind, yet enough diversification had occurred by this time to differentiate them as two distinct animals.
We also read about the turtle dove and the young pigeon. Again, these are the same Biblical kind, yet diverse enough for the author to differential turtle doves from young pigeons.
Both groups of animals you see here can hybridize indicating that they came from the same ancestral kind on both the Ark.

When was Genesis 15 written? We know that Abraham was born around 352 years after the flood. This passage describes an event when he was 75 years old, so this event dates back to around ~427 years after the flood. Rapid speciation had already occurred by this time and as shown in the passage here, would have included diversification of the 'dove-kind' which was on board the Ark. So rapid speciation is actually taught in the Bible!

Another similar passage would be Job 39:5, 19 which speak of the donkey and the horse. Again, from the same kind but it diversified enough to be identified as two distinct animals within the same kind (horse vs donkey)—written approximately 300+ years after the flood. And Genesis 30:32 speak of goats and sheep—again, the same biblical kind, written around 512 years after the flood.

At the same time, viruses undergo a very short generational time. By examining the data from 90 years of H1N1 viruses, we can examine the same number of generations that evolutionists claim existed since the supposed split between humans and chimps. The study showed that H1N1 had gone extinct multiple times due to genetic entropy! This is problematic for the evolutionary view that humans and chimps evolved from a common ancestor.

The evidence of rapid speciation is consistent with what the Bible teaches. The Biblical creation and global flood model is a much better explanation than the supposed evolutionary one. In contrast, it was actually Darwin's mentor, Charles Lyell who believed in the fixity of species.
Stuart H.
It was an eye-opener for me when I realized which animals were actually on the Ark. Those that came to Noah were examples of the wider populations. Those that didn't make it onto the Ark were drowned and became fossils. Therefore, the animals on the Ark were the same as those in the fossil record. Looking at present-day animals, such as the various cats and the giraffe beloved of naive depictions (pace Johan Huibers!), and projecting them back onto the Ark is too simplistic and probably seriously erroneous as this article shows.
Norman P.
Joel - Thank you for your response, and I appreciate it's a difficult area to address in a comments thread. What I'm highlighting is the apparent extreme rapidity of post-Flood speciation, which your examples lend weight to: i.e. that goats and sheep, donkeys and horses, were already specifically distinct in the days of the Patriarchs. For some I've met in the past, I know the credibility issue is whether such rapid diversification of the more complex creatures such as birds and mammals could have taken place purely naturalistically. I accept that the archetypal genome of each created kind must have been far broader; also, that the drastic changes in the post Flood Earth presented the stimulus for rapid diversification (seasonal, diurnal and climatic changes (Genesis 8:5), division of the land into continents,with deeper oceans and higher mountains, and animal behavioural changes, too (Genesis 9:2 ). But when I look at the Creation today, it's still so wonderful in all its glory, I feel sure the Creator must have been discretely involved in the re-ordering process. I guess we'll not understand all such mysteries from our 'earthy' perspective, but the Biblical light we do have, and the scientific evidence from modern genetics, indeed far outweigh the flawed Evolutionary synthesis, for those who are willing to receive it.

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