Tigers are the only big cats to have stripes and individuals can be identified by their pattern. The stripes also help the mammals to blend in with their surroundings and remain undetected for longer by prey.
When it comes to predatory adaptations, you wouldn’t expect a coloration of bright orange with black stripes to be top of the list – in fact it might not be on the list at all.
However, while we typically see tigers in zoos, conspicuous against the green vegetation in their enclosures, their main prey is ungulates, which cannot detect the range of colours that we primates can.
Tigers have white spots surrounded by black fur on the back of their ears. It has been suggested that they act as false eyes to warn of their presence or discourage other species from attacking them from behind. Other theories suggest that it helps tiger cubs follow their mother through tall grass.
Making a splash
Tigers do not shy away from water and enjoy bathing in streams and lakes to escape the heat in hot climates.
In tall grass, rock crevices or caves, tiger cubs are born blind and depend on their mother for protection.
After 15 months the matured cubs will disperse and find their own territories.
Tigers have a 14 year life span. Once mature, they will spend most of their time living and hunting alone, with the exception of females when they are raising their young.
The range of these big cats can be between 20km to 400km. Scent marking allows tigers to communicate with other tigers in their range.
Tigers have night vision that is six times better than that of humans, which helps them hunt successfully in the dark. A tiger will mainly hunt pigs and deer but is capable of taking prey larger than itself.
Endangered big cats
The remaining tiger subspecies are the Siberian, South China, Sumatran, Indochinese, Malayan and Bengal. It is believed that amongst those there are only 3,000 to 4,500 individuals left in the wild.
In March 2017, conservationists announced that a new breeding population of the Critically Endangered Indochinese tiger subspecies has been discovered.
Seen in a forest in eastern Thailand, six different tiger cubs from four females were identified.