Taxonomy

Panthera tigris amoyensis is believed by some scientists to be a relict population of the ancestor from which all other tigers evolved - the ‘stem’ tiger.

Tiger subspecies

8 subspecies of tiger have traditionally been recognised on the basis of:

  • geographic isolation
  • morphological characteristics

They are:

  1. Siberian or Amur tiger, P. t. altaica
  2. South China tiger, P. t. amoyensis
  3. Bali tiger, P. t. balica
  4. Northern Indochinese tiger, P. t. corbetti
  5. Javan tiger, P. t. sondaica
  6. Sumatran tiger, P. t. sumatrae
  7. Bengal tiger, P. t. tigris
  8. Caspian tiger, P. t. virgata

The Bali, Caspian and Javan subspecies are extinct.

Morphology

The South China tiger is one of the smallest tiger subspecies.

Male tigers:
  • Length: 2.3-2.6m (from head to tail)
  • Weight: 130-150kg
Female tigers:
  • Length: smaller than males, at 2.2-2.4m
  • Weight: 100-115kg
Skull morphology

This has been used to distinguish different tiger subspecies, although there are strong similarities between P. t. tigris and P t. corbetti, and some overlap of P. t. corbetti and P. t. sumatrae.

P. t. amoyensis has distinctive primitive skull morphology including:

  • a shortened cranial region
  • close-set, more forward facing eye sockets

Colouring and markings

The South China tiger has a similar coat color to other Asian tigers. Its short, broad stripes are spaced far apart compared to those of Bengal and Siberian tigers.