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Great Bengal Tiger - Wonders of Incredible India

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The Bengal tiger, or Royal Bengal tiger, is a subspecies of tiger native to India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. The Bengal tiger is the most numerous of the tiger subspecies with populations estimated at 1,411 in India, 200 in Bangladesh, 155 in Nepal and 6781 in Bhutan. The Royal Bengal Tiger is the national animal of India.

Its coat is a yellow to light orange, and the stripes range from dark brown to black; the belly is white, and the tail is white with black rings. A mutation of the Bengal subspecies, the white tiger, has dark brown or reddish brown stripes on a white background, and some are entirely white. Black tigers have tawny, yellow or white stripes on a black background color. The skin of a black tiger, recovered from smugglers, measured 259 cm and was displayed at the National Museum of Natural History, in New Delhi. The existence of black tigers without stripes has been reported but not substantiated.

Genetic ancestry
Bengal tigers are defined by three distinct mitochondrial nucleotide sites and 12 unique microsatellite alleles. The pattern of genetic variation in the Bengal tiger corresponds to the premise that these tigers arrived in India approximately 12,000 years ago. This recent history of tigers in the Indian subcontinent is consistent with the lack of tiger fossils from India prior to the late Pleistocene and the absence of tigers from Sri Lanka, which was separated from the subcontinent by rising sea levels in the early Holocene.

Behaviour
Tigers do not live in prides as lions do. They do not live as family units because the male plays no part in raising his offspring. Tigers mark their territory by spraying urine on a branch or leaves or bark of a tree, which leaves a particular scent behind. Tigers also spray urine to attract the opposite sex. When an outside individual comes into contact with the scent, it learns that the territory is occupied by another tiger. Hence, every tiger lives independently in its own territory.

Male Bengal tigers fiercely defend their territory from other tigers, often engaging in serious fighting. Female tigers are less territorial: occasionally a female will share her territory with other females. If a male happens to enter a female's territory, he will probably mate with her, if she is not already pregnant or has a litter. If she is pregnant or has a litter, he has no choice but to find himself a new territory and another potential mate. Similarly, females entering a male's territory are known to mate with him. Both males and females become independent of their mother around 18 months old, whereupon the cubs have to establish their own territories and fend for themselves. A male's territory is larger than a female's territory.

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