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Introduction

Tigers (and all other carnivores) have descended from miacids that lived during the ice-age. Approximately 37 cat species exist today, including Panthera tigris, the tiger. All throughout the world the tiger holds fascination for many people. Certain cultures retain the tiger as a symbol of strength, which has a mysterious aura surrounding it. But the fact remains that the tiger is in danger of extinction. Welcome, you are about to enter the world of the tiger...

Evolution:

The oldest known felids including tigers are believed to have evolved
over 1 million years ago in Asia. From there the tiger spread north to the Amur region of eastern Russia, south to the islands of Indonesia, and southwest to Indochina and the Indian subcontinent, eastern Turkey, and the Caspian Sea. The tiger has distinct traits & at times is grouped as a separate sub genus.

Distribution:

It is widely distributed over the forests of India ranging from the sub-alpine Himalayas to down south and across east-west, but excluding Kashmir valley and the desert and arid portions of Rajasthan and Kutch.

Distinctive traits:

The tiger (panthera tigris) is one of the biggest and most fearsome predators in the world. The body bears black stripes against a brownish yellow to rufous background with a white underside. The adult animal is solitary and strongly territorial when inhabiting better habitats having fair prey density. The territory of the male in such cases encompasses smaller territories of two or more females. The distinctive colour scheme of the tiger allows it to camouflage unseen in the forest.

Age:

The life span of tigers in the wild on an average is around 8 to 15 years. Tigers in zoos live longer (between 16 and 20 years).

Vision:

Tigers have round pupils and yellow irises (except for the blue eyes of white tigers). Due to a retinal adaptation that reflects light back to the retina, the night vision of tigers is six times better than that of humans. It can adjust to sudden darkness at once unlike the human eye. The presence of rods & cones in the eye indicates the possibility of colour vision.

Tactile Hair:

Tiger hairs are used as tactile receptors helping it to know more about its immediate surroundings The fur hair length varies geographically. In the southern subspecies the hairs are short (approximately 7 to 20 mm on the back and 15 to 35 mm on the stomach). The density of fur is dependent on seasonal and geographical factors.

Claws:

A tiger's forefeet have five toes and the hind feet have four toes. All toes have claws. The claws are sickle shaped and are important for offence and defence. The claws are retracted during walking and extended during attack.

Chromosomes:

The diploid Chromosomes are 38 in number.

Teeth design:

Tigers are meat eaters and their teeth design is adapted for this purpose. There are 30 teeth & the tiger bites with the side of its mouth. Its long, powerful canines are used to kill & grab the prey. The length of the canine teeth can be between 2.5 to 3 inches (74.5 to 90 mm.).

Maintenance of equilibrium:


It is extremely well-developed in tigers. The Tail is 3 to 4 feet long, about half as long as its body. Tigers use their tails for balance when they run through fast turns. They also use their tails to communicate with other t
igers.
Paw prints: A tiger's paw prints are called pug marks, which are individualistic like human finger prints. No two tigers have the same pug marks.

Size:

Tigers are the largest of all big cats- the body length of the male ranges from 275-290 cm, and for the females it is around 260 cm. The size and colouration varies according to the climate.

Reproductive behaviour & post-natal care:

Mating follows a definite courtship period, the mother carries total responsibility of bringing up the young. Cubs stay with their mother for as long as 18-30 months. Males are generally intolerant of cubs, though exceptions are there.

Stripes act as camouflage, and help tigers hide from their prey. The Sumatran tiger has the most stripes of all the tiger subspecies, and the Siberian tiger has the fewest stripes.

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