Today in our exploration of tiger facts, we found out that these fascinating animals, one of the most majestic creatures on earth, have eyespots on their backs.
Besides being simply beautiful, these spots serve a practical purpose: when tigers bend their heads down to drink, they’re vulnerable. The eyespots intimidate predators and trick them into thinking that the tiger is always watching them.
Which, by the way, they are always watching. Just try to sneak up on one. I dare you.
Mother Nature is an amazing lady, and her creatures have evolved beautifully for the sake of their own survival. Apparently, all of the nine tiger species, including Siberian, white, and Bengal, all have these unusual markings that help them stay alive.
Wait, Do Tigers Have Predators, Though?
As apex predators, tigers are at the top of the food chain. How can they possibly have predators, right?
As Thane Maynard of the Cinncinati Zoo says in the video of a Malayan tiger below, one of the facts about tigers is that they’re tough enough that it seems that they shouldn’t need defensive ear spots. However, he reminds us that typically only one animal is tough enough to attack a tiger: another tiger.
Maynard points out that these magnificent beasts are not social animals like lions and human beings are. Therefore, if there is a territorial dispute in their natural habitat, they will “fight like crazy.”
Besides having to worry about their own kind, these animals can be harmed if they tussle with Asiatic wild dogs, elephants, bears, and even large buffalo. And then, of course, there is the worst predator of all: human beings.
Facts About Tigers: Why They Have Eyespots
Maynard also thinks that tigers may have these distinctive spots because they’re nocturnal animals and the spots will show up at night.
Experts at Sea World support that theory. Also, they add that the “false eyes” make them seem bigger and more watchful to predators that attack from the rear. Another theory is that the spots may help a tiger with aggressive communication. For example, when they twist their ears around, the backs face forward.
When the Hunter Becomes the Hunted
Yes, tigers are tough creatures and their predators are rare. However, the fact remains that they are endangered and there is no shortage of human beings who would love to see one of these amazing animals on their floor as a rug.
Three species—Bali, Javan, and Caspian—have already become extinct because of hunters. It can happen again unless we intervene.
If you’d like to do your part to help save these amazing animals from extinction, consider donating to the World Wildlife Fund or Save Tigers Now (funded by WWF and Leonardo DiCaprio). No amount we donate is too small and every dollar matters.