Oldest big cat fossil discovered
November 13, 2013 | 2 comments
A modern snow leopard at Taronga Zoo. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Son Truong
Fossil skull fragments of a prehistoric species of large cat have been unearthed in the Himalayas.
Known as Panthera blytheae
, the previously unknown species is the oldest known cat ever found. Dating back up to 5.95 million years, these cats are believed to have been similar to today's snow leopards and are part of a subfamily of cats, which includes lions and tigers, that diverged from the Felinae family 6.37 million years ago.
"This ties up a lot of questions we had on how these animals evolved and spread throughout the world," said Dr Jack Tseng who authored the study. "Biologists had hypothesised that big cats originated in Asia. But there was a division between the DNA data and the fossil record."
The fossil skull fragments were retrieved as part of an expedition to the Zanda Basin in Tibet where palaeontologists discovered more than 100 fossil bones that had been deposited by a river. "This is a very significant finding - it fills a very wide gap in the fossil record," said Dr Tseng.
Source: BBC News
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