|South China tiger, perhaps the most primitive living subspecies|
There are six living subspecies of tiger, and at least a further two that went extinct as recently as the twentieth century. One way to trace the origin of tigers is to examine the genetics and physical features of the different subspecies and see how they compare. When we do this, we find that the Sumatran tiger appears to be a distinct lineage (it has even been suggested that it should be a considered a separate species, although nothing has really come of this), although the critically endangered South China tiger may have arisen even earlier. One of the first splits after this involved some tigers heading out to the eastern parts of Indonesia, where they established themselves as the Javan and Balinese subspecies - both now extinct. Of those on the mainland, one headed to India as the Bengal tiger, while the other went further north to become the Siberian tiger. The remaining two subspecies, the Malayan and Indochinese, are clearly related to one another, although there is some dispute as to whether they are closer to their relatives in Siberia or those in Bengal.