Origin - Page 1&2: The Early Development Of The Carnivores | 3: Origins Of The Tiger


The Siberian theory:

There is disagreement on how tigers came to be located where they are, though one popular theory is that all of these big cats originated in the cold areas of Siberia or Northern Asia. It is possible there was a southern movement of ice which forced the animals to make the move into China and Manchuria. 

At this point there would have been a three-way split, with groups travelling to India, the Caspian Sea and South-East Asia. The third group would then have split once more, this time into two, with these animals continuing onto Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia, or Java, Sumatra and Bali.

Early tiger fossils were discovered in Alaska which help add some credence to this theory.

But this is only one of several ideas and many experts disagree with it, saying an animal originating from snowy Siberia would hardly be in need of stripes for camouflage. The stripes strongly indicate tigers originated from areas of tall grasslands and forests where frequent fires probably occurred. At this time in history Siberia did not have those conditions.

The Asian theory:

It is now more generally accepted that the tiger originated in East Asia, with the South Chinese tiger being the original form and currently living in the area of origin.

The South Chinese tiger has a more primitive skull shape than the other subspecies.

This is particularly noticeable in the Chinese tiger's close-set forward-facing eyes and shortened cranium.

It is now considered that tigers split into two groups about 2 million years ago. The first group travelled in a northerly direction to south-west Asia, and further on up to Russia.

The second group proceeded in a south-easterly direction to Indonesia and India. Westward extension was halted by the Caspian Sea. Though people often think that the tiger made it as far as South Africa; this is incorrect.

The truth:

Pinning down the actual core of origin is extremely difficult. Vast numbers of other competitive predators and an ice age constantly moving the animals about has left experts scant chance of ever knowing the exact area many animals originated from.

Current beliefs depend largely on a few fossil finds on an island in the Arctic Ocean, some from the Lena River in Russia, Harbin in China, and from Choukoutien in Java. Fossil records are very incomplete and this has resulted in more disagreement than agreement among the experts. Huge gaps also remain in the fossil records relating to canids, but these are more extensive than those of the cat.

At this time it must be concluded that the true origins of the tiger still remain unknown, however the Asian theory is the one presently favoured. 

Origin - Page 1&2: The Early Development Of The Carnivores | 3: Origins Of The Tiger

Origin | Project Tiger | Releasing Captive Tigers | The Tale Of Tara | Taking A CensusPost Mortems
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Photography With Thanks To Dr. Gunther Eichhorn (Photo 1)
Aditya Singh (Photos 2-3)
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