Tiger, One Of The Most Powerful Predators On Earth
TIGER (Panthera tigris)
Location: S. and E. Asia
Length: Up to 91⁄2 ft (2.9 m)
Diet: Mainly large hoofed mammals
The largest of the big cats, the tiger is one of the most powerful predators on Earth. Relying on its enormous strength, it is specialized for hunting big prey.
Few predators regularly hunt alone for animals larger than themselves, but a tiger may take on a buffalo six times its own weight. Stealthily it creeps as close as possible, then charges and leaps on its victim from behind. Smaller animals may be killed with a bite to the top of the neck while larger animals are seized by the throat and throttled.
Seen from the back, each ear is black with a central patch of pure white. During an aggressive encounter, the tiger flattens and twists its ears so that the spots are visible from the front. This suggests the flashes are mainly used as a warning.
A wild tiger is nearly always orange with black stripes and is whiter below.
The tiger uses its tail for balance during an attack.
Longer back legs help the tiger to jump.
Loose skin around the belly provides protection during tiger fights.
Powerful front legs help to bring down prey.
The feet have broad, cushioned pads for silent stalking.
Whereas most big cats have plain or spotted coats, the tiger has unusual dark stripes. They act as very effective camouflage, especially among long grass where they mimic the vertical pattern of light and shade. The stripes break up the tiger’s outline, allowing it to get very close to its target without being detected, as it stalks prey before launching an attack.
The claws are adapted for seizing prey, rather than traction when running. Normally they are retracted into sheaths, which keeps their tips needle-sharp. But when the tiger leaps on a victim, its front legs straighten and the claws extend automatically to seize hold of its quarry.
Long whiskers help the tiger feel its way in the dark.
Although its ears are small, a tiger has excellent hearing.
Males have a large ruff of fur around their necks.
Like all cats, the tiger has big, meat-slicing carnassial teeth but no chewing teeth. This gives it a short jaw, which maximizes the pressure that its powerful jaw muscles exert on the huge, prey-killing canine teeth.