There are five species of tigers of the genus Panthera.
In the more common species, including the Bengal and Indian tigers, adult males reach lengths up to 10 feet and often weigh in excess of 550 pounds.
The tiger's physique reflects many evolutionary adaptations for the capture and killing of large prey. Its hind legs are longer than its front legs as an adaptation for jumping. Their shoulders are heavily muscled; the forepaws are equipped with long sharp retractile claws; and the skull is foreshortened, increasing the crushing leverage of the jaws.
While the tiger's stripes make it stand out when away from its natural habitat, they are a perfect camouflage in the elephant grass and brush where it stalks its prey. The coat coloration disrupts the outline of the body as the hunter stalks or lies in ambush for its prey.
Tigers occasionally take very large prey such as rhino and elephant calves, as well as agricultural stock when wild prey is depleted. Tigers hunt alone, and actively search for prey rather then wait for it.
When it comes to reproduction, the female tiger takes the initiative by moaning and roaring to get the attention of the males. After a gestation period averaging 104 days, a litter of two to five cubs is born with an average of two surviving to adulthood.
A cub's eyes open during the second week of life and it begins to supplement its mother's milk with meat at about eight weeks of age, becoming totally independent by 18 months.
The range of the tiger has undergone a drastic reduction. In the early 1900s there were in excess of 100,000 tigers in their native Asia, including about 40,000 in India. By the early 1970s the world population of these cats had been reduced to as few as 4,000.