Tuesday, December 4, 2012

European Jaguar

Panthera gombaszoegensis
The modern big cats are spread all over the world, but then to have very distinct ranges. Tigers in Asia. Cheetahs in Africa. Jaguars in South America. But in the past this was not the case. Lions lived in Europe and Asia. There was a strange Cheetah-like cat in North America, and today we'll learn that there were Jaguars in Europe.

The European Jaguar lived about 1.5 million years ago, and its fossils have been found throughout central and western Europe. These cats were larger than their cousins who now live halfway around the world, reaching nearly 450lbs in size. They were probably solitary creatures, and their size allowed them to take down large prey.

European Jaguars were so similar to the big cats of today that they belong to the very same genus (Panthera). There are even some who think they might be a subspecies of modern Jaguars!

So if there were Jaguars in Italy, how the heck did they all end up in South America 1.5 million years later? Well, there were also Jaguars in Asia. And those Asian Jaguars spread about a few million years ago. Some eventually made their way into the America, while others moved west to Europe. Eventually the European and Asian lines died out (possibly due to competition with other large cat species), but the South American Jaguar, the only large Cat in its range, flourished.

Status : Extinct 1.5 million years
Location : Europe
Size : Length up to 20ft (6m), Weight up to 460lbs (210kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Carnivora
Family : Felidae -- Genus : Panthera -- Species : P. gombaszoegensis

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