Cats – evolution and species. The most important information

Cats have come a long way since they were found in the world today. How did the Felids evolve? We answer this question below.

Contrary to appearances, early forms of large cats they showed no sign that subsequent evolutionary paths would turn this family into super-predators capable of hunting large herbivorous mammals. The rise of the Felids to the top of the food chain was largely due to climate change, which resulted in significant changes in the environment.

First you need to explain it What are cats actually?. The term refers to a family of mammals. Currently, they are classified into 40 species. They are found on almost all continents and are the most common predators in their natural habitats. The above is related to the fact we are talking about hypermeats, ie only meat-eating species. However, these predators had to travel a long way before reaching the top of the food pyramid.

The ancestor of today’s cats evolved during the Oligocene and Miocene (25-16 million years ago). I’m talking about gender Proailuruswhere typical species are selected Proailurus lemanensis. The animal inhabits present-day Germany, Spain, Mongolia and Nebraska. It looked like a modern domestic cat in shape and size. Like today’s species, it had forward-looking eyes that gave it stereoscopic vision. He also had a flat mouth.

But this is where the similarities end. Proailurus he was equipped with molars, but no teeth on his jaw – one of the greatest hunting attributes of felids. Anatomically, it was closer to today’s dolls, which seems to indicate that felids and cats were a common ancestor.

In rocks younger than where the fossils were found Proailurus, traces of felids are extremely weak. The “dry period” lasted several million years. Scientists call this a “cat gap.” There are several theories about this situation, but the exact cause is never known.

About 15 million years ago, significant climate change took place. The climate has dried up, and previously densely forested areas have become deserts and savannas. This environment favored large grass-eaters who could cover long distances. The game got bigger, and so – evolutionary changes could not bypass the predators.

He was one of the first big cats Homotherium – a lion-like predator, but equipped with a lynx-like short tail. The animal represented the mahajrodon family. Sword-toothed cats were characterized by longer teeth than today’s teeth. There were other big cats in the same ecosystem, including. cheetahs, lions and leopards (the oldest fossils from Africa date back to about 3.5 million years ago).

However, it should be clearly stated that at that time the felids had not yet reached the peak of their evolutionary form. This would only happen with the advent of the Pleistocene Ice Age. Inthe breed then evolved Smilodoncommonly called sword-toothed tiger.

The oldest fossils of this species are 2.5 million years old. It should be noted that today there are three types of sex Smilodon. The oldest Smilodon gracilisThose who lived between 2.5 million and 50 thousand. years ago. According to paleontologists, a large predator can weigh up to 100 kg.

photo: De Agostini via Getty Images

He was even bigger Smilodon fatalis, living in the period of 1.5 million to 10 thousand. years ago. This animal weighed 280 kg. However, it was the largest felid of its kind Smilodon populator, Living between 1.5 million and 10 thousand. years ago. This cat weighed up to 400 kg. It should be noted that the largest and probably the most dangerous sword-toothed tiger still lived 10,000. years ago. This means that our ancestors were probably engaged in it often.

For a long time, sword-toothed cats functioned in conjunction with other large cats. However, it should be noted that their anatomy was completely different. They looked more like bears. They did not chase their prey, they ambushed them. Interestingly, scientists believe that their jaws are weaker than modern large cats. However, this does not change the fact that today’s species are descended from individuals who lived millions of years ago. Below we describe some of the most interesting.


Primogenitor leopard It is likely that he started a line of large cats that appeared on our planet about 6.4 million years ago. Currently, this species lives in Asia and Africa. Their natural habitat is dense forests, but they can also be found in savannas and mountainous areas. Leopards are 100-150 cm long and weigh up to 90 kg. It should be noted that we still know very little about the habits of this cat. Leopards are so vigilant that it is difficult to follow them, even in nature reserves.


L comes from the same lineAfrican ew. The oldest fossils of this cat’s offspring are 3.5 million years old. In the late Pleistocene, the earliest forms of this animal were the most widespread terrestrial mammals living in America, Eurasia and Africa. Today, lions are found only in Africa (except for the Asian lion, which is rare in India). An adult male is up to 250 cm long and weighs up to 280 kg. Interestingly, lions are the only felids living in family groups.

It may seem modern Tigers refers to sword-toothed tigers. In fact, the evolution of both species is several million years old. This is the most common subspecies of cat Bengal tigerThe wild population is estimated at about 1700-1900 individuals. Occurs on the Indo-Chinese peninsula, inhabited by tropical forests, swamps and vast meadows. It reaches a length of 310 cm and weighs up to 325 kg.

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