Panthera is the only organization in the world that is devoted exclusively to the conservation of the world’s 40 wild cat species and their ecosystems.
Utilizing the expertise of the world’s premier cat biologists, Panthera develops and implements global strategies for the most imperiled large cats: tigers, lions, jaguars, snow leopards, cheetahs, pumas, and leopards.
Representing the most comprehensive effort of its kind, Panthera partners with local and international NGOs, scientific institutions, local communities, governments around the globe, and citizens who want to help ensure a future for wild cats.
Panthera’s grants program, the Small Cat Action Fund (SCAF), additionally supports conservation and research initiatives on many of the smaller wild cat species around the globe.
The tiger, lion, leopard, and jaguar are the only cat species with anatomical structures that enable them to roar. The snow leopard is the only one that cannot roar in this genus. The primary reason for this was formerly assumed to be the incomplete ossification of the hyoid bone. However, new studies show the ability to roar is due to other morphological features, especially of the larynx.
In Panthera species, the dorsal profile of the skull is flattish or evenly convex. The frontal interorbital area is not noticeably elevated, and the area behind the elevation is less steeply sloped. The basicranial axis is nearly horizontal. The inner chamber of the bullae is large, the outer small. The partition between them is close to the external auditory meatus. The convexly rounded chin is sloping.
All Panthera species have an incompletely ossified hyoid bone. A specially adapted larynx with proportionally larger vocal folds is covered in a large fibro-elastic pad. These characteristics enable them to roar. Only the snow leopard cannot roar, as it has shorter vocal folds of 9 mm (0.35 in) that provide a lower resistance to airflow; it was therefore proposed to be retained in the genus Uncia.Panthera species can prusten, which is a short, soft, snorting sound; it is used during contact between friendly individuals. The roar is an especially loud call with a distinctive pattern that depends on the species.
The geographic origin of the Panthera is most likely northern Central Asia. Panthera blytheae, the oldest known Panthera species, is similar in skull features to the snow leopard. The tiger, snow leopard, and clouded leopard genetic lineages dispersed in Southeast Asia during the Miocene.
Genetic studies indicate that the pantherine cats diverged from the subfamily Felinae between six and ten million years ago.
The genus Neofelis is sister to Panthera.
The clouded leopard appears to have diverged about 8.66 million years ago. Panthera diverged from other cat species about 11.3 million years ago and then evolved into the species tiger about 6.55 million years ago, snow leopard about 4.63 million years ago and leopard about 4.35 million years ago. Mitochondrial sequence data from fossils suggest that the American lion (P. atrox) is a sister lineage to P. spelaea that diverged about 0.34 million years ago.
The snow leopard is nested within Panthera and is the sister species of the tiger.
Results of a 2016 study based on analysis of biparental nuclear genomes suggest the following relationships of living Panthera species:
The extinct European jaguar (Panthera gombaszogensis), was probably closely related to the modern jaguar. The first fossil remains were excavated in Olivola, in Italy, and date to 1.6 million years ago.
Fossil remains found in South Africa that appear to belong within the Panthera lineage date to about 2 to 3.8million years ago.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, various explorers and staff of natural history museums suggested numerous subspecies, or at times called "races", for all Panthera species. The taxonomist Reginald Innes Pocock reviewed skins and skulls in the zoological collection of the Natural History Museum, London, and grouped subspecies described, thus shortening the lists considerably.
Since the mid-1980s, several Panthera species became subjects of genetic research, mostly using blood samples of captive individuals. Study results indicate that many of the lion and leopard subspecies are questionable because of insufficient genetic distinction between them.
Subsequently, it was proposed to group all African leopard populations to P. p. pardus and retain eight subspecific names for Asian leopard populations.
Originally spelaea was classified as a subspecies of the extant lion P. leo. Results of recent genetic studies indicate that it belongs to a distinct species, namely P. spelaea. Other genetic results indicate that the fossilis cave lion also warrants status as a species.
Not closely related to modern tiger subspecies
Other, now invalid, species have also been described, such as Panthera crassidens from South Africa, which was later found to be based on a mixture of leopard and cheetah fossils.
Two cladograms proposed for Panthera. The upper one is based on phylogenetic studies by Johnson et al. (2006), and by Werdelin et al. (2010). The lower cladogram is based on a study by Davis et al. (2010) and by Mazák et al. (2011).
The cladogram below follows Mazák, Christiansen and Kitchener (2011).
^Yu, L. & Zhang, Y.P. (2005). "Phylogenetic studies of pantherine cats (Felidae) based on multiple genes, with novel application of nuclear beta-fibrinogen intron 7 to carnivores". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 35 (2): 483–495. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.01.017. PMID15804417.
^ abDavis, B.W.; Li, G.; Murphy, W.J. (2010). "Supermatrix and species tree methods resolve phylogenetic relationships within the big cats, Panthera (Carnivora: Felidae)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 56 (1): 64–76. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2010.01.036. PMID20138224.
^Hemmer, H.; Kahlke, R.D. & Vekua, A.K. (2001). "The Jaguar – Panthera onca gombaszoegensis (Kretzoi, 1938) (Carnivora: Felidae) in the late lower Pleistocene of Akhalkalaki (south Georgia; Transcaucasia) and its evolutionary and ecological significance". Geobios. 34 (4): 475–486. doi:10.1016/s0016-6995(01)80011-5.
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^Stinnesbeck, S. R.; Stinnesbeck, W.; Frey, E.; Olguín, J. A.; Sandoval, C. R.; Morlet, A. V.; González, A. H. (2018). "Panthera balamoides and other Pleistocene felids from the submerged caves of Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico". Historical Biology: An International Journal of Paleobiology. 32 (7): 1–10. doi:10.1080/08912963.2018.1556649. S2CID92328512.
^Hemmer, H.; Kahlke, R. D.; Vekua, A. K. (2010). "Panthera onca georgica ssp. nov. from the Early Pleistocene of Dmanisi (Republic of Georgia) and the phylogeography of jaguars (Mammalia, Carnivora, Felidae)". Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen. 257 (1): 115–127. doi:10.1127/0077-7749/2010/0067.
^Marciszak, A.; Schouwenburg, C.; Darga, R. (2014). "Decreasing size process in the cave (Pleistocene) lion Panthera spelaea (Goldfuss, 1810) evolution – A review". Quaternary International. Fossil remains in karst and their role in reconstructing Quaternary paleoclimate and paleoenvironments. 339–340: 245–257. Bibcode:2014QuInt.339..245M. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2013.10.008.
^Diedrich, C. G. (2013). "Late Pleistocene leopards across Europe – northernmost European German population, highest elevated records in the Swiss Alps, complete skeletons in the Bosnia Herzegowina Dinarids and comparison to the Ice Age cave art". Quaternary Science Reviews. 76: 167–193. Bibcode:2013QSRv...76..167D. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2013.05.009.
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