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Updated by Rosalie Galvez on Dec 03, 2020
Headline for Evolution of Cats - Feline Timeline
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Evolution of Cats - Feline Timeline

Cats evolved approximately ten million years ago alongside humans who have evolved six million years ago. Approximately 10.8 million years ago, the panther-like ancestors of cats appeared first in Southeast Asia and became fossils. Without DNA studies, it was impossible to track and study the evolution of cats because all of the ancestors of cats became fossils.

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Cats Genetics

DNA studies and the technologies of genetics has helped a lot in the discoveries of the evolutionary journey of cats.

Researchers have used a "molecular clock analysis" that exactly shows how long ago the species have diverged from one another. The ancestors of the modern domestic cat were the last to appear approximately 3.4 million years ago.

Evolution is the process of gradual development. The researchers have observed that as the sea levels rose and fell it affected the migration of cats. When the sea levels were low the cats tend to migrate more to different continents and when the sea levels were high it caused the isolation of cats. That's how the new species of cats developed because of the rising and falling of the sea levels.

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The cats are thought to be evolved from Miacid.

Miacid

It lived 60 million years ago. It was a carnivore. All the carnivores are thought to be evolved from Miacid. It was a short-legged and long-bodied animal.

Dinictis

It was the first descended of Miacid and it resembles the most with the modern cat. It had cat-like incisor teeth.

Proailurus

It lived 30 million years ago. It can claim the title of the first true cat. It is the first known member of the Felidae family that includes all the cats (big, small, living, extinct).

Pseudaelurus

It lived approximately 20 million years ago. It was a short-legged animal and it had a slender like body.

Approximately 6 to 10 million years ago Pseudaelurus evolved and branched into 4 subfamilies which are explained below

  1. Machairodontinae family: it consists of a saber-toothed cat

An example is smilodon extinct

  1. Pantherinea family: it consists of modern-day cats (lion, tiger, leopard)

  2. Felinae family: it consists of small domestic cats

  3. Aciniychinae family: it consists modern-day cheetah

Species

The living cats (feline family) are divided into 37 different species around the world that are listed below with their examples

Lion

Example: Panthera leo

Leopard

Example: Panthera pardus

Jaguar

Example: Panthera onca

Tiger

Example: Panthera tigris

Snow leopard

Example: Panthera uncia

Clouded leopard

Example: Neofelis nebulosa

Bornean clouded leopard

Example: Neofelis diardi

Asian golden cat

Example: Pardofelis temmincki

Bornean bay cat

Example: Pardofelis badia

Marbled cat

Example: Pardofelis marmorata

Caracal

Example: Caracal caracal

African golden cat

Example: Caracal aurata

Serval

Example: Caracal serval

Geoffroy’s cat

Example: Leopardus geoffroyi

Kodkod

Example: Leopardus guigna

Tigrina

Example: Leopardus tigrinus

Andean mountain cat

Example: Leopardus jacobita

Pampas cat

Example: Leopardus colocolo

Margay

Example: Leopardus wiedii

Ocelot

Example: Leopardus pardalis

Iberian lynx

Example: Lynx pardina

Eurasian lynx

Example: Lynx lynx

Canada lynx

Example: Lynx canadensis

Bobcat

Example: Lynx rufus

Puma

Example: Puma concolor

Jaguarundi

Example: Puma yaguarondi

Cheetah

Example: Acinonyx jubatus

Asian leopard cat

Example: Prionailurus bengalensis

Fishing cat

Example: Prionailurus viverrina

Flat-headed cat

Example: Prionailurus planiceps

Rusty-spotted cat

Example: Prionailurus rubiginosus

Pallas’s cat

Example: Otocolobus manul

Domestic cat

Example: Felis catus

Wildcat

Example: Felis silvestris

Sand cat

Example: Felis margarita

Black-footed cat

Example: Felis nigripes

Jungle cat

Example: Felis chaus

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Lineages

In 1997, Warren E. Johnson and Stephan O'Brien researched on 37 living species of cats or Feline family and divided them into 8 lineages

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Panthera

This lineage has large to medium-sized cats weighing approximately 15 to 150 kilograms. They are the most dominant cats around the world. They are mostly called wild or roaring cats. They have an incomplete ossified hyoid bone that allows them to roar but two species of this lineage are not able to roar (Bornean clouded leopard and clouded leopard). Lion, tiger, jaguar, leopard, and snow leopard are included in this lineage

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Caracal

The cats of this lineage are of medium size ranging from 5 to 25 kilograms. They are restricted to Africa. They were typically considered as a group before the genetic analysis made by some researchers

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Baycat

The cats of this lineage are poorly known. Before the proper research, it was not considered as a separate group by the taxonomists. The cats of this group range in size from small to medium weighing from 2 to 16 kilograms. The species of this group are restricted to the habitat of forests in Southeast Asia

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Ocelot

The cats of this lineage have sizes ranging from small to medium size (1.5 to 16 kilograms). They have a broad range of habitats but they are mostly populated in Central and South America. It has different chromosome number from other members of the Felidae family (i.e it has 36 number of chromosome while other species have 38)

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