The next group of cats we will cover are the three cats of the Puma Lineage. There are three diverse wild cats in the Puma lineage, differing in range, size and coat pattern and unique enough to each be classified in their own genus.
The three cats are the Puma (Puma concolor), the Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi) and the Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus).
Although the Cheetah and Puma are often called ‘big cats’, as they weigh over 50 kgs, they evolved much later than the true big cats of the Panthera genus and have different characteristics.
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.
In the next few posts we will cover some unique aspects of each of these cats.
If you are interested in evolution, I came across this review of a new book on Science News – The Rise and Reign of the Mammals, definitely on my wish list. On our website we also list other books and documentaries on Felidae evolution in particular.