Saturday, 8 March 2014
NEWSLINK: Smithsonian scientist confirms missing link in big cat evolution
After years of sleuthing for clues about where and when pantherine felids ("big cats") originated, a Smithsonian scientist and an international team of researchers are one step closer to understanding the evolutionary history of these species. A fossil recently found in the Zanda Basin in Tibet included remains of Pantera blytheae, a new species of big cat that is most closely related to the modern day snow leopard. The skull of P. blytheae is the oldest big cat fossil found to date, and fills a significant gap in the fossil record. It indicates that ancient big cats lived nearly 6 million years ago, 2 million years earlier than previously thought, and sheds light on their geographic origins in Asia. Scientists plan to build on this research by studying how big cats evolved and adapted to changes in their environment over time to help inform modern day big cat conservation efforts. The research is published in the Jan. 7 issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
Graham Slater, a Peter Buck post-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, examined the remains of P. blytheae after its excavation, and helped confirm its status as a new species by conducting morphological and DNA analyses of the skullread more