Tigers (Panthera tigris) are mammals of the Felidae family and one of four "big cats" in the Panthera genus. A group of tigers is called an "ambush" or a "streak". They are predatory carnivores and the largest of all living cats. more...
Most tigers live in forests and grasslands (for which their camouflage is ideally suited). Among the big cats, only the tiger and jaguar are strong swimmers, and tigers are often found bathing in ponds, lakes and rivers. Tigers hunt alone and eat primarily medium-sized herbivores such as deer, wild pigs, and buffalo. However, they will also take larger or smaller prey on occasion. Humans are the tiger's only serious predator and often kill tigers illegally for their fur or penises, which are used as aphrodisiacs in Chinese Medicine rather than for food. Poaching for fur and destruction of habitat have greatly reduced tiger populations and it has been placed on the endangered species list.
Although different subspecies of tiger have different characteristics, in general male tigers weigh between 150 and 310 kg (330 lbs and 680 lbs) and females between 100 and 160 kg (220 lbs and 350 lbs). The males are between 2.6 and 3.3 metres (8 ft 6 in and 10 ft 9 in) in length, and the females are between 2.3 and 2.75 metres (7 ft 6 in and 9 ft) in length. Of the more common subspecies, Corbetts Tigers are the smallest and Amur Tigers the largest.
The ground of the coat may be any colour from yellow to orange-red, with white areas on the chest, neck, and the inside of the legs. A common recessive variant is the white tiger, which may occur with the correct combination of parents; they are not albinos. Black or melanistic tigers have been reported, but no live specimen has ever been captured or photographed. Another variant, the golden tabby tiger (also called the "golden tiger" or "tabby tiger"), has a golden hue, much lighter than the colouration of normal tigers, and brown stripes. This form is very rare and only a handful of golden tabby tigers are known to exist, all in captivity. There are also old texts referring to 'blue'or 'Maltese' tigers, actually a silvery-grey tone, though no reliable evidence has been found.
The stripes of most tigers vary from brown or grey to pure black, although white tigers have far fewer apparent stripes. The form and density of stripes differs between subspecies, but most tigers have in excess of 100 stripes. The now extinct Javan Tiger may have had far more than this. The pattern of stripes is unique to each animal, and thus could potentially be used to identify individuals, much in the same way as fingerprints are used to identify people. This is not, however, a preferred method of identification, due to the difficulty of recording the stripe pattern of a wild tiger. It seems likely that the purpose of stripes is camouflage, serving to hide these animals from their prey (few large animals have colour vision as capable as that of humans, so the colour is not so great a problem as one might suppose). The stripe pattern is found on a tiger's skin and were you to shave one, you would find that its distinctive camouflage pattern would be preserved.
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