Pseudo-melanistic Bengal tiger inspects scent marking on a tree

Pseudo-melanistic Bengal tiger inspects a tree for scent
Pseudo-melanistic Bengal tiger inspects a tree for scent. Click on the image to see it larger. Screenshot from Twitter video (cleaned up).
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The Indian ranger, Susanta Nanda, in his tweet describes this tiger, captured in a camera trap video, as melanistic. I think, in fact, that the tiger is better described as being pseudo-melanistic. This is because the stripes are still visible against the background but the stripes are much thicker and therefore much closer together which prevents the tawny background being visible. True melanistic big cats are completely charcoal black with ghost markings.

So-called black tigers are in fact pseudo-melanistic tigers. Sarah Hartwell, an expert in this field, tells us that they are getting more common which may be due to inbreeding caused by habitat reduction. This must mean that the genetic mutation causing pseudo-melanism is recessive and therefore hidden under normal circumstances.

RELATED: Rare black tigers – pseudo-melanistic tigers – photographed in India

India’s Bengal tigers are being squeezed into smaller areas despite a network of reserves in that country because of an increased human population year-on-year. Arguably, some of the reserves are too small in any case as they can’t truly accommodate anything other than a small number of tigers as tigers require very large home ranges.

Therefore, there is a limited choice of mates which promotes inbreeding and according to Sarah Hartwell “the perpetuation of anomalous patterns or colours”. Apparently, there are also some true melanistic tigers coming through because of inbreeding. Sometimes black leopards are misidentified as black tigers.

RELATED: see a website dedicated to the tiger.

The ranger says that the tiger is scent marking. I think the tiger is checking scent on the tree deposited by another animal, perhaps another tiger.

Below are some more pages on Bengal tigers.

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