What is the scientific name of the tiger

Caspian tiger

The Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata), also Turantiger and Persian tiger called, is a subspecies of the tiger that became extinct in the 1970s. The subspecies had the westernmost range of all 9 subspecies of the tiger.



The Caspian tiger was one of the medium-sized subspecies of the tiger. As with all members of the cat family (Felidae) males were significantly larger and heavier than queens. The head-trunk length of males varied between 178-197 cm, the skull was between 297 and 365.8 mm long and their weight was up to 240 kg. In addition, there was a tail of approximately 90 cm in length, which resulted in a total length of around 270 cm.

Females reached lengths between 160-180 cm with head-trunk lengths around 150-165 cm and weighed between 85 and 135 kg. Their skulls, with lengths of 195.7-255.5 mm, were also significantly smaller than those of the males. The Caspian tiger was thus slightly lighter than the Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), but significantly heavier than today's smallest form, the Sumatra tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae).


The most noticeable difference to other subspecies was the imposing white peritoneum, especially in winter plumage, which was significantly longer than other subspecies and hung down shaggy.

The basic color of the fur was orange, whereas the summer fur was similar to the king tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) and in winter, on the other hand, was much brighter and longer than the Amur tiger. The underside was white. The stripes were much narrower, more numerous and longer than in the more eastern representatives of the tropics and subtropics and clearly lighter. Its fur most closely resembled that of the Amur tiger, whose stripes are also more dark brown than black, but not so distinct.

Way of life

Caspian tigers, like other subspecies of the tiger, lived as solitary animals in fixed territories and only came together to mate. Nothing is known about the size of the districts. Caspian tigers mainly fed on wild boars and cervids. The menu also included crop gazelles, saigas, argalis, smaller mammals, other predators such as jackals and chaus cats and invertebrates. From time to time they also preyed on larger prey animals such as elk, wild horses and half donkeys as well as farm animals of the human settlers.

distribution and habitat

Historical distribution area of ​​the Caspian Tiger around 1900 (dark gray)

The distribution area of ​​the Caspian tiger was furthest in the west of all subspecies of the tiger. He inhabited large parts of Asia both west and east of the Caspian Sea. In the east, its distribution area extended as far as China to the Takla Makan desert. To the west, its distribution area ran across the Middle East to Asia Minor and Turkey.

However, its distribution was not continuous, but rather highly fragmented, as the species mainly stayed in the vicinity of rivers and streams, as its most important prey animals also lived there. Otherwise, the Caspian tiger was not picky about its habitat. It populated wooded areas as well as higher rock landscapes, semi-deserts and, depending on its prey, even penetrated into deserts.


External system

The Caspian tiger, like all subspecies of the tiger (Panthera tigris) within the order of predators (Carnivora) to the family of cats (Felidae). There he was placed in the subfamily of the big cats (Pantherinae) and the genus of the real big cats (Panthera) to.

Internal system

The Caspian tiger was one of 9 known subspecies of the tiger (Panthera tigris), of which 5 subspecies still exist today. Two more, Balitiger (Panthera tigris balica) and Javatiger (Panthera tigris sondaica), like the Caspian tiger, were also exterminated in the 20th century. The remaining subspecies are all threatened with extinction.

Phylogenetic closeness to the Amur tiger

In 2009, researchers published a study of phylogenetic studies on tigers. To this end, they collected 23 samples from Caspian tigers in museums and compared the mitochondrial DNA with that of other subspecies. It was found that between the mitochondrial DNA of the Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata) and that of the Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) there are only minor differences. The researchers concluded that both populations therefore descended from a single population. According to this, their ancestors from eastern China via Siberia settled both the far east of Russia, northern China and North Korea - the current area of ​​distribution of the Amur tiger - as well as Central Asia along the Silk Road as far as Turkey, i.e. the former distribution area of ​​the Turantiger. The two populations were only separated from each other by humans around 200 years ago.

Consequently, the Caspian tiger and Amur tiger would belong to a single common subspecies. Since the Caspian tiger was described before the Amur tiger and the International Rules for Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) provide for the naming according to the first description of a taxon, the taxon of the Caspian tiger would have validity and the scientific name of the Amur tiger should actually be in Panthera tigris virgata be renamed.

Caspian tiger and human

Keeping in human care

Wild animals were already kept by humans in ancient times. The Romans organized exhibition fights in arenas, during which people had to compete against animals that were particularly dangerous from the human point of view. In addition to Berber lions from North Africa, Caspian tigers were particularly popular in the Roman amphitheater because they were considered particularly aggressive. At 19 BC Under Emperor Augustus, tigers from the Caucasus region, Persia, Mesopotamia and the Turkish region of Anatolia entered the arenas.

In modern zoological gardens, Caspian tigers were kept comparatively rarely. In the German area, Caspian tigers first made their way to the Berlin Zoo in 1897, where the first breeding was recorded in the same year. Other zoos in Europe that kept Turantigers were the zoos in Moscow, Antwerp and Rotterdam. From 1955 to 1960 a female animal that came from Persia lived in the Hagenbeck zoo in Hamburg-Stellingen. It was also the last animal of this subspecies in a European zoo.

die out

The habitat of the Caspian tiger encompassed a far-reaching distribution area, in which, however, since it was bound to rivers, it only occurred in question and was therefore never particularly common. The settlement of his habitat made the situation even more difficult. So dense stocks of reeds, which offered the tiger camouflage and retreat for hunting, had to give way to fields and cotton plantations. Other areas fell victim to flooding and fire threats. Cattle carried along transmitted contagious diseases, including foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and classic swine fever (KSP), to their prey, which were also hunted by humans at the same time. Last but not least, the tigers themselves were often hunted, on the one hand because of the fur, on the other hand because they were feared as competitors for the game population.

After all, the last tigers lived in a few fall-in-love retreats in remote mountain regions. The last sightings of Caspian tigers date back to 1970. Although there have been alleged sightings of turantigers or their tracks to this day, all of which are unconfirmed or can be traced back to other authors such as leopards living in the region, the subspecies is most likely extinct today.

Planned resettlement

After the first sanctuary for the Caspian tiger was established in Tajikistan in 1938 and further rescue attempts were initiated, any help came too late, so that the subspecies is now listed as Extinct by the IUCN. Due to the genetic proximity to the Amur tiger, there is a discussion about breeding Siberian tigers in human care and then reintroducing them to the wild in reserves in Kazakhstan and Iran.

For this reason, Amur tigers were brought to Tehran Zoo. After the male animal died shortly after arrival, the continuation of this project is questionable.

In Kazakhstan, an area around the Ili Delta near the Balkh axis was identified as a possible reintroduction area. This Kazakh project has so far only been based on a feasibility study.


  • V. G. Geptner, A. A. Sludskii (1972) Mlekopitaiuščie Sovetskogo Soiuza. Vysšaia Škola, Moskva. (Original in Russian; English translation: V. G. Heptner et al. (1992) Mammals of the Soviet Union. Volume II, Part 2: Carnivora (Hyaenas and Cats). Smithsonian Institute and the National Science Foundation, Washington DC). Pages 95-202.
  • Grzimek, Bernhard (Ed.): Grzimek's animal life. Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom (licensed edition in 13 volumes with German / Latin-English-French-Russian animal dictionary), Bechtermünz, Augsburg 2000/2004, ISBN 3-8289-1603-1
  • C. A. Driscoll, N. Yamaguchi, G. K. Bar-Gal, A. L. Roca, S. Luo, D. W. Macdonald, S. J. O'Brien: Mitochondrial phylogeography illuminates the origin of the extinct Caspian Tiger and its relationship to the Amur Tiger. In: PLoS ONE. Volume 4, No. 1, 2009, e4125.
  • Zootierliste.de - Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata), accessed on May 30, 2014
  • Jungius, H., Chikin, Y., Tsaruk, O., Pereladova, O. (2009) Pre-Feasibility Study on the Possible Restoration of the Caspian Tiger in the Amu Darya Delta (PDF file; 4.96 MB)] ]. WWF Russia

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