Fossil of Oldest Big Cat Discovered in Tibet

By Michele Berger
Published: November 13, 2013

Researchers in the Himalayas discovered the remains of the oldest known big cat.

A fossil from Panthera blytheae, an animal closely related to the snow leopard and exhibiting characteristics similar to other big cats, lived nearly 6 million years ago, much earlier than previous estimates for animals of this lineage, according to a paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. It also came from Tibet rather than Africa, where the oldest fossils of this type have been found.

The researchers from the University of Southern California and several natural history museums in the United States and Canada, reported their findings online yesterday.

“These new fossils fill in a huge time gap,” paleobiologist Jack Tseng of the American Museum of Natural History told National Geographic.

The team made the discovery in 2010, while scouting on what Tseng described as a “typical day.” But when they stumbled on a jaw with countable teeth roots, they knew they’d found something unique. They kept digging and eventually uncovered a skull, National Geographic reports. Given its size, they determined the animal likely weighed 40 to 50 pounds, according to Popular Science. Given its location, they placed it in snow leopard lineage.

Tseng and colleagues used anatomical data and DNA to double check that the fossil did, in fact, prove a new species. They plan to return to the site to search for additional specimens, states a report from USC News. 

“We are in the business of discovery,” notes co-author Xiaoming Wang, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. “We go out into the world in search of new fossils to illuminate the past.” 

MORE: Today’s Top Videos

Featured Blogs

Category 3 Odile the Strongest Hurricane on Record to Hit Baja

By Dr. Jeff Masters
September 15, 2014

Destructive Hurricane Odile powered ashore at Cabo San Lucas on Mexico's Baja Peninsula near 12:45 am EDT Monday as a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds. Odile was the strongest hurricane on record to hit the Baja Peninsula, tied with Hurricane Olivia of 1967.

August 2014 Global Weather Extremes Summary

By Christopher C. Burt
September 12, 2014

August featured a record heat wave in the Baltics and Belarus, record cold in Northern Ireland, extreme rainfall events along the U.S. East Coast and in Michigan. Deadly flooding in Nepal and India killed at least 200 and Typhoon Halong hit Japan. A rare tropical storm struck the Big Island of Hawaii. Perth, Australia had its warmest August on record while Darwin measured its coldest August temperature on record.

Live Blog: Tracking Hurricane Arthur as it Approaches North Carolina Coast

By Shaun Tanner
July 3, 2014

This is a live blog set up to provide the latest coverage on Hurricane Arthur as it threatens the North Carolina Coast. Check back often to see what the latest is with Arthur. The most recent updates are at the top.

Tropical Terminology

By Stu Ostro
June 30, 2014

Here is some basic, fundamental terminology related to tropical cyclones. Rather than a comprehensive and/or technical glossary, this represents the essence of the meaning & importance of some key, frequently used terms.

2013-14 - An Interesting Winter From A to Z

By Tom Niziol
May 15, 2014

It was a very interesting winter across a good part of the nation from the Rockies through the Plains to the Northeast. Let's break down the most significant winter storms on a month by month basis.

What the 5th IPCC Assessment Doesn't Include

By Angela Fritz
September 27, 2013

Melting permafrost has the potential to release an additional 1.5 trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and could increase our global average temperature by 1.5°F in addition to our day-to-day human emissions. However, this effect is not included in the IPCC report issued Friday morning, which means the estimates of how Earth's climate will change are likely on the conservative side.