posted on Nov, 12 2013 @ 10:14 PM
Nov. 12, 2013
The oldest big cat fossils ever found - from a previously unknown species "similar to a snow leopard" - have been unearthed in the
The skull fragments of the newly-named Panthera blytheae have been dated between 4.1 and 5.95 million years old.
Their discovery in Tibet supports the theory that big cats evolved in central Asia - not Africa - and spread outward.
The findings by US and Chinese palaeontologists are published in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B.
They used both anatomical and DNA data to determine that the skulls belonged to an extinct big cat, whose territory appears to overlap many of the
species we know today.
The earliest fossils previously found were just 3.6 million years old - tooth fragments uncovered at Laetoli in Tanzania, the famous hominin site
excavated by Mary Leakey in the 1970s.
The new fossils were dug up on an expedition in 2010 in the remote Zanda Basin in southwestern Tibet, and these are believed to range between 4.10 and
5.95 million years old, the complete skull being around 4.4 million years of age.
With these new findings, some scientists are leaning towards the assumption that the big cats came from Asia, not Africa.
"This is a very significant finding - it fills a very wide gap in the fossil record," said Dr Manabu Sakamoto of the University of Bristol, an expert
on Pantherinae evolution.
"The discovery presents strong support for the Asian origin hypothesis for the big cats."
edit on 12-11-2013 by snarky412 because: (no reason given)