Some fossil skulls are morphologically distinct from lion skulls, which could indicate tiger presence in Alaska during the last glacial period , about , years ago. In the Philippine island of Palawan , two articulated phalanx bones were found amidst an assemblage of other animal bones and stone tools in Ille Cave near the village of New Ibajay.
They were smaller than mainland tiger fossils, possibly due to insular dwarfism. Otherwise, it would appear that early humans had accumulated the bones,  so it may be that the tiger parts were imported from elsewhere, or that the tiger colonised Palawan from Borneo before the Holocene, considering the proximity of the two islands.
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The resulting model shows a contiguous tiger range from southern India to Siberia at the Last Glacial Maximum , indicating an unobstructed gene flow between tiger populations in mainland Asia throughout the Late Pleistocene and Holocene. The tiger populations on the Sunda Islands and mainland Asia were possibly separated during interglacial periods.
It was found to have similar repeat composition to other cat genomes and an appreciably conserved synteny. Captive tigers were bred with lions to create hybrids called liger and tigon. They share physical and behavioural qualities of both parent species. Breeding hybrids is now discouraged due to the emphasis on conservation. The less common tigon is a cross between a lioness and a male tiger. The tiger has a muscular body with powerful forelimbs, a large head and a tail that is about half the length of its body.
Its pelage is dense and heavy, and colouration varies between shades of orange and brown with white ventral areas and distinctive vertical black stripes that are unique in each individual. This is not due to skin pigmentation, but to the stubble and hair follicles embedded in the skin, similar to human beards colloquially five o'clock shadow , and is in common with other big cats.
The pupils are circular with yellow irises.
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The small, rounded ears have a prominent white spot on the back, surrounded by black. The tiger's skull is similar to a lion 's skull, with the frontal region usually less depressed or flattened, and a slightly longer postorbital region. The lion skull shows broader nasal openings. Due to the variation in skull sizes of the two species, the structure of the lower jaw is a reliable indicator for their identification. There is a notable sexual dimorphism between males and females, with the latter being consistently smaller than males.
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The size difference between males and females is proportionally greater in the large tiger subspecies, with males weighing up to 1. Males also have wider forepaw pads than females, enabling sex to be told from tracks. In either sex, the tail represents about 0. The Bengal and Siberian tigers are amongst the tallest cats in shoulder height. They are also ranked among the biggest cats that have ever existed.
Large male Siberian tigers reach a total length of more than 3.
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At the shoulder, tigers may variously stand 0. The Siberian tiger is often considered to be the biggest tiger. However, the largest wild tiger ever reported was a Bengal tiger from north India which was shot in It had a total body length of 3. The white tiger lacks yellow pigments , and has dark sepia-brown stripes and blue eyes. This altered pigmentation is caused by a mutant gene that is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait, which is determined by a white locus.
It is not an albino , as the black pigments are scarcely affected. Both parents need to have the allele for whiteness to have white cubs.
The local maharaja started breeding tigers in the early s and kept a white male tiger together with its normal-coloured daughter; they had white cubs. Inbreeding depression is the main reason for many health problems of captive white tigers, including strabismus , stillbirth , deformities and premature death. The snow white tiger is a morph with extremely faint stripes and a pale reddish-brown ringed tail. The golden tiger has a pale golden pelage with a blond tone and reddish-brown stripes.
These morphs are rarely recorded in the wild. In China and Myanmar, breeding populations appear to rely on immigration from neighbouring countries while its status in the Korean Peninsula is unknown. The tiger is essentially associated with forest habitats. In Thailand, it inhabits mixed deciduous , dry evergreen and dry dipterocarp forests.
In the Caucasus, it inhabited hilly and lowland forests. When not subject to human disturbance, the tiger is mainly diurnal. Four females dispersed between 0 and Adult tigers lead largely solitary lives. They establish and maintain territories but have much wider home ranges within which they roam. Resident adults of either sex generally confine their movements to their home ranges, within which they satisfy their needs and those of their growing cubs. Individuals sharing the same area are aware of each other's movements and activities.
Young female tigers establish their first territories close to their mother's. The overlap between the female and her mother's territory reduces with time. Males, however, migrate further than their female counterparts and set out at a younger age to mark out their own area. A young male acquires territory either by seeking out an area devoid of other male tigers, or by living as a transient in another male's territory until he is older and strong enough to challenge the resident male. To identify his territory, the male marks trees by spraying urine   and anal gland secretions, as well as marking trails with scat and marking trees or the ground with their claws.
Females also use these "scrapes", as well as urine and scat markings. Scent markings of this type allow an individual to pick up information on another's identity, sex and reproductive status. Females in oestrus will signal their availability by scent marking more frequently and increasing their vocalisations.
Although for the most part avoiding each other, tigers are not always territorial and relationships between individuals can be complex. An adult of either sex will sometimes share its kill with others, even those who may not be related to them.
George Schaller observed a male share a kill with two females and four cubs. Unlike male lions, male tigers allow females and cubs to feed on the kill before the male is finished with it; all involved generally seem to behave amicably, in contrast to the competitive behaviour shown by a lion pride. They found her at the kill just after dawn with her three month-old cubs, and they watched uninterrupted for the next ten hours.
During this period the family was joined by two adult females and one adult male, all offspring from Padmini's previous litters, and by two unrelated tigers, one female the other unidentified. By three o'clock there were no fewer than nine tigers round the kill. Occasionally, male tigers participate in raising cubs, usually their own, but this is extremely rare and not always well understood. The photos show a male Amur tiger pass by, followed by a female and three cubs within the span of about two minutes. The cubs remained under his care, he supplied them with food, protected them from his rival and sister, and apparently also trained them.
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Male tigers are generally more intolerant of other males within their territories than females are of other females. Territory disputes are usually solved by displays of intimidation rather than outright aggression. Several such incidents have been observed in which the subordinate tiger yielded defeat by rolling onto its back and showing its belly in a submissive posture.
Facial expressions include the "defense threat", where an individual bares its teeth, flattens its ears and its pupils enlarge. Both males and females show a flehmen response , a characteristic grimace, when sniffing urine markings, but flehmen is more often associated with males detecting the markings made by tigresses in oestrus.
Like other Panthera , tigers roar , particularly in aggressive situations, during the mating season or when making a kill.