Tigers are among the most recognisable and popular of the world's charismatic mega fauna. They have featured prominently in ancient mythology and folklore, and continue to be depicted in modern films and literature. Tigers appear on many flags and as mascots for sporting teams.
Tigers are muscular, with powerful forequarters, and have a large head. The face is framed by long hairs that form whiskers, which are more conspicuous in males. The body is marked with black stripes of various length and form. The ears are rounded and black on their dorsal side with a white central spot.
The pattern of stripes is unique to each animal. These unique markings can be used by researchers to identify individuals, much in the same way that fingerprints are used to identify humans. It seems likely that the function of their stripes is to camouflage, helping tigers conceal themselves among the shadows and long grass of their environment as they stalk their prey. The stripe pattern is also found on the skin of the tiger.
Tigers generally hunt alone and ambush their prey as most other cats do, overpowering them from any angle, using their body size and strength to knock large prey off balance. Even with their great masses, tigers can reach speeds of about 49 to 65 kilometres per hour. They can only do so in short bursts, since they have relatively little stamina. Tigers must be very close to their prey before they break their cover.
When hunting large prey, tigers prefer to bite the throat and use their forelimbs to hold onto the prey, bringing it to the ground. The... [continues]
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