All the colors of the... Tiger?
Rainbow of Fur
A spectrum of color..
When we think of a tiger, we automatically think of two different colors; orange and white. However, what most people do not realize is that there are in fact five different colors of tigers, and even more shades within those color variations. Some of these colors are not what is considered normal, but rather anomalies or mutations within the genetics. Some of the color variations include: orange, white, gold, blue and black.These animals are special regardless of their coloring, but seeing the beauty and rarity of the different variations makes the experience even more special for anyone lucky enough to behold them.
The orange coloring is the most common color of tiger. Every subspecies of tiger can be orange. Whereas some of the more exotic colors are limited to certain subspecies.
The white coloration is actually a mutation in the genetics. However, it is the most common mutation within any subspecies of tiger. There are actually three different types of white tigers; white, stripe-less white, and albino. The most common in this sub category is the regular white tigers with black stripes. Though sometimes the mutation of color can also cause a mutation in the physical features of the animal and occasionally cause a handicap. The stripe-less white tigers, also known as Ghost stripe tigers, are solid white and only show a faint outline of stripes when light is refracted off of their coats. These tigers still have the characteristic blue eyes and pink nose of their striped counterparts. Where as an albino white tiger has pink eyes and no skin pigment, often times having to deal with cancer because of sensitivity. These are the rarest of the white tigers, simply because they do not survive long.
The golden tiger (strawberry tiger) was first seen in the wild, in India, in 1932. However, this is a mutation and not a separate species of tiger. The first tigers to be born in captivity with the golden coloring didn't occur until 1987. The golden coloration is a peachy brown colored coat with slightly darker brown stripes and much more white on the extremities. Some have even been known to have no stripes at all. While these creatures are beautiful and highly photogenic, zoos have begun taking the inbreeding necessary to cultivate the gene to a disturbing level.
Blue tigers are also a mutation. Blue tigers have been reported in the mountains of the Fujian province of China since the early 1900s. They are called Maltese (bluish-grey or slate blue) tigers, and normally have white patches on the extremities and black stripes. There have also been sightings in North Korea and South Korea, but because North Korea does not welcome outsiders it is impossible to investigate sightings. Slate-colored tigers may represent a small population where the color has become fixed in an isolated, inbred group. However, as of this time, they are not considered a separate species of tiger.
One form of black coloring is caused by the non-agouti mutation. Agouti refers to the ticking hair on the background color of a tabby. Certain lights allow for the pattern to still show up because the background color is less dense than that of the markings. There have been numerous unconfirmed reports of pure black, non-striped tigers (true melanistic tigers). Another form of so-called black is pseudo-melanism. These tigers have thick stripes so close together that the tawny pelt beneath is no longer visible. There are reports that black tigers are becoming more common in the wild. This may be due to more inbreeding, caused by loss of habitat. The observation that the black tigers are smaller than normal tigers seems to confirm this suspicion. As humans require more space, the tigers are forced into smaller areas with fewer choices for mates, allowing more inbreeding to occur.
Tigers of the Rainbow
Beautiful but Tragic
While these color variations are considered beautiful and even encouraged as publicity attractions in some zoos, we must remember that these color variations are Mutations, and the animals that have this problem also suffer other health issues. Many conservationists believe that zoos should concentrate on preserving the purebred tigers rather than breeding different color forms. These color variations are massively popular in the entertainment industry and thus people continue to breed them. The pelvic girdle and lumbar vertebrate problems have been directly related to this mass inbreeding and is highly dangerous to the animals.
More Info on Tiger Mutations and Anomalies
- HYBRID AND MUTANT ANIMALS
This site holds information on not just tigers, but dozens of other animals in the wild and in captivity that are considered mutated or altered in some way.