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The Cave Lion (Panthera spelaea and Panthera fossilis)

Canada GrizzlyClaws Offline
Canine Expert
( This post was last modified: 12-04-2017, 05:31 AM by GrizzlyClaws )

The genetic proof is absolutely conclusive, since the morphological study has misdirected people so many times.

Although I am more inclined toward Dr. Ross Barnett's stance, but we shall remain more observant and to see more evidence coming out later.
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Netherlands peter Offline
Expert & Researcher
( This post was last modified: 12-04-2017, 09:35 AM by peter )

(12-04-2017, 12:26 AM)tigerluver Wrote: Panthera atrox in South America?

A new paper was just published stating that a fossil pantherine of South America, known as P. onca mesembrina, has been misidentified at least a few times. The true identity of this cat they assert is Panthera atrox. Their assertion is based on morphological similarities of the specimen to P. atrox rather than the jaguar. The skull they reference is the best example of their point. The paper.

*This image is copyright of its original author

*This image is copyright of its original author

Take a look at the above photos. Which species does the skull in the top photo looks most similar too? Based on visibility of the incisive foramina and the nasal shape, the authors conclude that the skull is actually of P. atrox.

At first take, the logic looks good. However, Dr. Ross Barnett disagrees, mentioning on twitter that cats of these areas have been DNA tested and shown to be jaguar. He cited this paper

The authors in a way already had a response built into the paper to such a rebuttal, stating that the ancient jaguar and American lion would have shared the domain. So what does everyone think? Is this skull of a jaguar or an American lion?


Based on the shape and relative length of the nasals (a), the shape and relative width of the rostrum (b) and the transisiton from the maxillary bone to the arches ©, I would get to Panthera leo.


Based on the skulls I saw, I'd say that jaguars are closer to lions and leopards than to tigers. Of these three (Panthera leo, Panthera onca and Panthera pardus), however, jaguar skulls show more features typical for tiger skulls.


I remember a discussion on another forum quite some years ago. The discussion was about the Americas, lions, jaguars and evolution and it started with a very old skull attributed to Panthera atrox. I participated, but to a degree only.

My feeling was not everything was known about the two big cats in the Americas (referring to Panthera leo and Panthera onca). 

I know there was a split in Panthera a long time ago. Based on the skulls I saw, my guess is tigers split first. They're different from the other three species (not counting P. uncia for now), whereas the other three (P. leo, P. onca and P. pardus) seem to be related. 

Of these three species, lions could be crucial. Their way of life offered many opportunities. When they spread out, they met no opposition. Not in the open landscapes they preferred. 

Leopards adapted to woodland and elevated regions, but jaguars seem to be typical forest cats. I always wondered about the robustness of jaguars, as they mostly hunt smallish animals. In South-America, there are no large herbivores in the forests. Not any more, I mean. Jaguars didn't quite adapt. In a way, they seem to be overpowered. Why is that?

My guess was (referring to the discussion mentioned above), that they're relatively new. Did they migrate from Europe? Lions could and did cross Berengia and settled in the northern part of the Americas, but solitary big cats struggled to cross Berengia. This means that lions should have been the only representative of Panthera in the Americas. But they're not. So where did jaguars come from?

The only logical explanation I could find back then was they have to be related to Panthera atrox. When the climate changed in the Americas and big herbivores started to disappear, lions had to adapt. Maybe prides were replaced by small groups first and maybe some individuals started living on their own later. Maybe the conditions in the northern part of the Americas were too difficult to survive and maybe the conditions in the south offered more opportunities. Over time, individuals in the south adapted to forest life and water.


The scenario discussed above can explain why jaguars of large size only occur in regions where the forest is less dense (Venezuela, the Pantanal and a few other regions): open woodland offers more opportunities for large herbivores and those who hunt them would be able to maintain a large size. 

This scenario however still doesn't explain the robustness typical for jaguars. So what is the reason?

My feeling is that jaguars are big cats that had to scale down over time in order to survive. The question is where the scaling down started. Did Panthera onca develop in Europe and split a long time ago, or did they develop from a population of Panthera atrox in the southern part of North-America? 

Skulls can help to a degree. Jaguar skulls are closer to Panthera tigris and Panthera leo than to Panthera pardus. My take is they're closer to Panthera leo. Maybe the features in jaguar skulls also seen in tiger skulls are a result of adaptation to forest life.
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Venezuela epaiva Online
( This post was last modified: 12-11-2017, 10:28 PM by epaiva )

Skull and head of European cave Lion taken from the book The Big Cats and their fossil relatives (Alan Turner and Mauricio Anton)

*This image is copyright of its original author
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