Big cats are abundant in the wilds of the Earth today. Africa alone has a number of big cat species such as lions, tigers, and many other varieties. A group of researches have discovered the fossilized remains of an ancient big cat in the Himalaya mountains. According to the researchers, the fossilized remains are of the oldest big cat species ever discovered.
The fossilized remains are skull fragments from a species that was previously unknown called Panthera blytheae. The fossils were dated to between 4.1 million and 5.95 million years old. The discovery was made in Tibet and since they are the oldest big cat remains ever found, they suggest that big cats evolved in Asia and then migrated to Africa.
The scientists say that the big cat would have been similar to the modern snow leopard. The scientists used anatomical and DNA data to determine that the skull fragments belonged to a big cat. The ancient cat is believed to have roamed a range that big cat species on the prowl today still roam.
"This cat is a sister of living snow leopards - it has a broad forehead and a short face. But it's a little smaller - the size of clouded leopards," said lead author Dr Jack Tseng of the University of Southern California.
The oldest big cat fossils previously found are about 3.6 million years old and were tooth fragments found in Laetoli in Tanzania. The new scull fragment was discovered in the Zanda Basin along with over 100 other bones that were deposited by a river eroding a cliff in 2010.