The tiger has always had a considerable impact on human cultures, especially where people and tigers have lived together and still do co-exist. It is certainly one of the most easily recognizable cats, with its distinctive and unique striped coat and is also commonly believed to be the biggest cat species alive today, although this claim is questionable. The tiger shows considerable variation in its size, coloration and markings, reflecting the variety of habitats it occupies throughout its wide geographical distribution from the temperate oak forests of the north to the humid tropical forests on the Equator. Understanding this variation is a key to its successful current and future conservation, but people are still uncertain of its significance. Its large size and consequent need for large prey have brought it into conflict with people by preying on them and their livestock, but it has also earned our respect and admiration for its power and prowess as a killer. Research on geographical variation in tigers is suggesting two possible models, which have enormous significance for future tiger conservation. The more conservative model, based both on molecular and morphological research, suggests that eight or more subspecies, some of which may even be distinct phylogenetic species, should be recognized.
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