The 3 Cats of the Puma Lineage
The Puma lineage consists of three diverse wild cats, each in their own genus, differing in size, range and coat pattern.
The Puma and Cheetah are often viewed as 'big cats' as they weigh over 50 kgs but they have different characteristics and evolved much later than the true big cats of the Panthera genus.
Going back in Felidae evolution, this is one of the line of cats that descended from ancestors that migrated to North America from Asia following the first ice age 8 to 10 MYA (million years ago), when the Bering Strait land bridge linked Asia and North America.
The Puma lineage then arose around 6.7 MYA and the Puma and Jaguarundi spread to South America during the second ice age across the Panama land bridge, whereas the Cheetah migrated back into Eurasia and ultimately into Africa.
Puma Family Classification
In scientific classification (taxonomy) the three wild cats of the Puma lineage belong to the cat family Felidae and the small cat subfamily Felinae.
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)
Family: Felidae (cats)
Subfamily: Felinae (small cats)
Species: Acinonyx jubatus (Cheetah)
Species: Puma concolor (Puma)
Note: 'Lineage' is not a taxonomic unit, it is a means to group closely related species in evolutionary order.
There is only one cat in the Acinonyx genus - the Cheetah.
There is only one cat in the Herpailurus genus - the Jaguarundi.
There is only one cat in the Puma genus - the Puma also known as a Cougar or Mountain Lion.
Books about Pumas / Cougars / Mountain Lions
Books about Cheetahs
Puma Cat Family Quiz
Click through on the information links above to find the answers to this quiz. Good luck!
1. Which cat holds the record for the most number of common names?
2. Name a characteristic that separates the cheetah and puma, both often called big cats, from the true big cats?
3. Which two cats are primarily diurnal (active during the day) differing from most other wild cats that are primarily nocturnal (active at night)?
4. Which subspecies of one of these cats is almost extinct in the wild?
5. Which characteristics help the cheetah qualify as the fastest land mammal?
6. Which cat has two color phases?