By: Jessica Bentley and Nakya Ervin
The tiger (Panthera tigris) is the largest cat speices, reaching a total body length of up to 3.3 m (11 ft) and weighing up to 306 kg (675 lb). Its most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with a lighter underside. It has exceptionally stout teeth, and the canines are the longest among living felids with a crown height of as much as 74.5 mm (2.93 in) or even 90 mm (3.5 in). In zoos, tigers have lived for 20 to 26 years, which also seems to be their longevity in the wild.
They are territorial and generally solitary but social animals, often requiring large contiguous areas of habitat that support their prey requirements. This, coupled with the fact that they are indigenous to some of the more densely populated places on Earth, has caused significant conflicts with humans.
Tigers once ranged widely across Asia , from Turkey in the west to the eastern coast of Russia. Over the past 100 years, they have lost 93% of their historic range, and have been extirpated from southwest and central Asia, from the islands of Java and Bali, and from large areas of Southeast and Eastern Asia Today, they range from the Siberian taiga to open grasslands and tropical mangrove swamps.
The remaining six tiger subspecies have been classified as endangered by IUCN. The global population in the wild is estimated to number between 3,062 and 3,948 individuals, down from around 100,000 at the start of the 20th century,with most remaining populations occurring in small pockets isolated from each other. Major reasons for population decline include habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation and pouching.
The earliest tiger fossils date back to somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million years ago and in approximately the same geographic distribution as modern tigers had a hundred years ago (when they still maintained a substantial range) with the possible addition of Beringia - i.e. Alaska.