Nonhuman species all have personalities. But since humankind is more focused on human psychology, research in this area isn’t exactly a priority.
“Animal personality refers to consistency in the types of behavior that individuals exhibit. Behavioral biologists, psychologists, endocrinologists, and evolutionary and developmental biologists are now studying animal personality,” according to researchers. “Only over the last decade has the study of animal personality gained momentum… But animal personality was not totally ignored.”
Tigers, although highly feared for their terrifying appearance and deadly capabilities, can be quite playful as well. Take a look at them enjoying a cardboard box in this article!
As tigers share 95.6% of their DNA with domestic cats, you’d think that they’re easily tamed and, well, not that fierce, but given that humans share almost 99% of their DNA with the great apes and we’re not exactly that good at surviving the wilderness, a high percentage of shared DNA doesn’t really say much about personalities.
A study published in the Royal Society Open Science Journal claims that tigers actually have individual character traits that help them particularly in survival.
The study focuses on one species of tiger, considered the largest cat in the world, the endangered Siberian or Amur tiger (Pantheris tigris altaica).
Researchers assessed data from two Amur tiger populations. One group consisted of 152 tigers from the world’s largest semi-wild tiger sanctuary in North Eastern China, and the other group consisted of 96 tigers from the Hengdaohezi Siberian Tiger Park in Eastern China.
“A tiger personality questionnaire containing a list of 70 words (items) considered suitable to describe tiger personality was given to each rater.”
They implemented a seven-point Likert scale for their tiger personality questionnaire. The test included questions about a tiger’s confidence, bullying, and savagery, to give you an example. The raters were either feeders or veterinarians that all worked with the tigers for at least 6 months. All of the raters were able to identify every individual tiger. Each tiger was rated by more than three people on average.
The results from both groups were the same and showed two main factors. The researchers chose to label the two personality categories as Majesty and Steadiness.
The tigers who scored high for words such as imposing and dignified fall in the Majesty personality, while the tigers that scored high for words like obedient and quiet fall in the Steadiness personality.
Another interesting observation made by the researchers is that the tigers that scored high in Majesty traits were healthier, hunted and ate more live prey, and mated more than those in the Steadiness group.
The Steadiness group is rated and described as more loving, gentler, and more sincere. The researchers suggest that this type of personality may help in the long-term survival of a cub.
“It’s pleasant to see that you don’t have to be dominant, fierce, competitive, and aggressive in order to succeed as a tiger,” Rosalind Arden, co-author of the study, said. “Like us, Siberian tigers are individuals. Understanding their temperaments is essential because, as we have seen, these personalities have a bearing on this endangered species’ ability to breed and flourish.”
According to the study, understanding animal personality can aid and augment our capacity to manage and conserve wildlife more effectively.
Read the research article, “Majestic tigers: personality structure in the great Amur cat,” here.