The 7 Cats of the Panthera Lineage
The Panthera lineage consists of seven cats, five of which are the largest in the cat family. This lineage comprises the five big cats of the Panthera genus and the two clouded leopards of the Neofelis genus.
The first four big cats in the Panthera genus are the only wild cats that have the ability to roar, however they cannot purr like most other cats. The fifth cat, the snow leopard, is the big cat exception in this genus that cannot roar.
These big cats are also the most endangered due to the loss and fragmentation of their large territories, and wildlife trade in their body parts and beautiful skins.
The other large cats, the puma and cheetah, have different characteristics and are grouped under the Puma Lineage.
The five cats of the Panthera genus are the Tiger, Lion, Jaguar, Leopard and Snow Leopard.
The two cats of the Neofelis genus are the Mainland Clouded Leopard and the Sunda Clouded Leopard.
Panthera Lower Classifications
In scientific classification (taxonomy) the big cats belong to the family Felidae and the subfamily Pantherinae. The higher and lower classifications of this group are as follows:
Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)
Class: Mammalia (mammals)
Order: Carnivora (carnivores)
Suborder: Feliformia (cat-like)
Species: Panthera tigris (Tiger)
Species: Panthera leo (Lion)
Species: Panthera onca (Jaguar)
Species: Panthera pardus (Leopard)
Species: Panthera uncia (Snow Leopard)
The last common ancestor of modern cats was a species of Pseudaelurus that occurred in Asia 9 to 20 million years ago (MYA). Using genetics, scientists have established that modern cats diverged from this ancient species into eight groups or lineages of closely related species in the cat family Felidae.
The Panthera lineage of the big roaring cats is the oldest cat lineage that split from this common ancestor 10.8 MYA. Descendants evolved into seven species which occur across all the continents of Asia, North and South America, Europe and Africa as they migrated to and from Asia over time.
Reference: O’Brien, J. S. and Johnson, W. E. (2007). The evolution of cats. Scientific American July 2007: 68-75.
Panthera Lineage Cat Quiz
Click through on the images, videos and fact sheets above to find the answers to this quiz. Good luck!
1. Which continent has the most big cat species?
2. Which continent has no big cat species?
3. How many times larger is the Lion compared to the Clouded Leopard?
4. Which two big cat species are at the most risk of becoming extinct?
5. Which big cat is also known as a Panther?
6. Which cat in the Panthera genus cannot roar?