Why are tigers orange and not green?

Tiger camouflage
Tiger camouflage. How a prey animal might see the tiger. Image: PoC.
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The tiger attacks color-blind animals

The main reason why tigers are orange and not green is because the large prey animals that they need to feed on are colour-blind and they don’t see orange. Some scientists say that they see a muted green instead of orange while others say they see a muted brown or grey colour. I have done my best to replicate that in the image above.

The point is that the tiger’s coat has evolved to be good camouflage with respect to the prey animals that it feeds on which makes a lot of sense. As humans see orange the tiger’s camouflage is less effective for us, which confirms that humans are not prey animals for tigers although they sometimes attack and feed on people. This is normally because the tigers are old, infirm or injured and have to pick an easy prey item.

Disruptive colour

As for the sharp, somewhat jagged dark stripes, this is a ‘disruptive colour’ on the coat which helps to break up the outline of a tiger against its background landscape.

Tiger’s habitat is often brown/orange

A third reason why the tiger has this unique camouflage is because it’s actually very good even if the prey animal is not colour-blind to the same extent and can see reds. This is because the tiger lives in a wide range of landscapes some of which are quite warm coloured and wooded. These are ideal landscapes for the tiger to roam in. There are two examples below.

Tiger camouflage
Tiger camouflage. Image in public domain (believed).


So you can see that what appears to be not very good camouflage is actually excellent camouflage as we should expect because evolution doesn’t make a mistake like that. Evolution wouldn’t have got it wrong to that extent unless there was a very good reason.

Why is the tiger orange?
Thorn forest

Camouflage is for stalking not as a defense

It’s worth pointing out that the tiger only needs camouflage to be able to stalk prey animals efficiently and to approach them as close as possible before making the final surge and attack. This enhances the kill success rate. They are the apex predator and therefore the camouflage is not to hide the tiger as a defensive measure against predators.

H3>Unique stripe pattern

Tiger stripes – some detailed information

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