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Felidae: history and later lower classifications
Felidae: history and later lower classifications

The evolution of Felids (or Felidae), the family of mammals to which cats (domestic and wild) also belong, has been studied by scientists for more than 200 years. In this article we will offer you an overview of the history of the Felidae family and the subsequent lower classifications of its subgroups, Felinae and Pantherinae.

cat walking
cat walking

History and evolution

The study of fossils makes scientists argue that Felidae (Felidae) did originated between the end of the Eocene and the beginning of the Oligocene (33.9-23 million years ago): in fact, the traces of the first ever documented Felide, the Proailurus, can be dated to this period. It was about the size of a bobcat, with an elongated body (including skull and tail) but short legs and primitive teeth that had more molars and premolars than modern felids.

Reconstruction of the possible appearance of a Proailurus
Reconstruction of the possible appearance of a Proailurus

Reconstruction of the possible appearance of a Proailurus

It has been speculated that some specimens of Proailurus they migrated to North America evolving into Pseudaelurus dating back to the Miocene, and more precisely between 20 and 9 million years ago. It was found in both America that in Europe, where it has been distinguished into 5 and 4 different species respectively. The size of the Pseudaelurus ranged from that of a modern wild cat to that of a small puma; however it still had primitive characteristics, such as the low and long body and the teeth similar to those of the Proailurus. It is from him that the saber-toothed tigers are thought to have originated, whose lineage became extinct about 10,000 years ago.

Then the genus dates back to the upper Miocene (about 8 million years ago) Styriofelis, object of lively debates and repeated reviews by the scientific community, initially more inclined to consider it part of Pseudaelurus or Felis. A consensus has now been reached on the fact that it is a genus in its own right, connected moreover to modern cats since it has a teeth more similar to theirs.

reconstruction of styriofelis
reconstruction of styriofelis

It is the kind though Pristifelis (and more precisely the P. attica species), dating back to the end of the Miocene, the closest to the cats we know. Equipped with a build similar to an African golden cat or a Serval, he was the size of a bobcat but with a more elongated profile. To distinguish it from the genera described above is the reduced dentition, which allows to develop a shorter muzzle and more similar to today's cat.

A clouded leopard
A clouded leopard

A clouded leopard.

About 10.8 million years ago the separation from this line by the genus occurred Panthera, which today includes lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards and Borneo clouded leopards. 9.4 million years ago it was the turn of the genus Pardofelis which includes the bay cat, the Asian golden cat and the marbled cat. The Caracal line, which includes the caracal, the serval, and the African golden cat, separated 8.5 million years ago, followed by the genus Leopardus which includes most of the small South American cats and from the genus Lynx (7, 2 Ma).

To the line named Puma belong to the genus of the same name and the Acinonix; these include puma, cheetah and yaguarondi (also called eyra). At 6.2 million years ago there was finally the distinction between two other lines: the first in the genera Otocolobus (Pallas's cat) e Prionailurus (viverrino cat or fisherman cat), the second in the genus Felis (domestic cat).

domestic cat
domestic cat

Subsequent lower rankings

Two living subfamilies belong to the Felidae family, with their relative genera and species. Here are the later lower rankings:

Subfamily Felinae

felinae genetic tree
felinae genetic tree

The Felinae phytogenic tree, lower classification of the Felidae family.

The felines or Felinae they are a subfamily of the Felidae family. They are characterized by the presence of a rounded head, short muzzle and a body covered with fur, often spotted or streaked. They have padded legs and claws that they use for hunting, and they have excellent hearing and sight, which gives them the ability to hunt at night. Here are the genres and the lower ratings by Felidae:

Genus Felis Linnaeus, 1758:

  • Felis chaus Schreber, 1777 - jungle cat
  • Felis nigripes Burchell, 1824 - black-footed cat
  • Felis margarita Loche, 1858 - cat of the sands
  • Felis bieti Milne-Edwards, 1892 - Biet's cat
  • Felis silvestris Schreber, 1777 - wild cat

Genus Otocolobus Brandt, 1842:

Otocolobus manul (Pallas, 1776) - Pallas's cat

Genus Prionailurus Severtzov, 1858

  • Prionailurus rubiginosus (I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1831) - rusty cat
  • Prionailurus planiceps (Vigors and Horsfield, 1827) - flathead cat
  • Prionailurus viverrinus (Bennett, 1833) - fishing cat
  • Prionailurus bengalensis (Kerr, 1792) - leopard cat

Genus Acinonyx Brookes, 1828:

Acinonyx jubatus (Schreber, 1775) - cheetah

Genus Herpailurus Severtzov, 1858:

Herpailurus yagouaroundi (É. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1803) - yaguarondi

Genus Puma Jardine, 1834

Puma concolor (Linnaeus, 1771) - puma

Genus Lynx Kerr, 1792:

  • Lynx rufus (Schreber, 1777) - bobcat
  • Lynx canadensis Kerr, 1792 - Canadian lynx
  • Lynx lynx (Linnaeus, 1758) - Eurasian lynx
  • Lynx pardinus (Temminck, 1827) - Iberian lynx

Genus Leopardus Gray, 1842:

  • Leopardus pardalis (Linnaeus, 1758) - ocelot
  • Leopardus wiedii (Schinz, 1821) - margay
  • Leopardus colocolo (Molina, 1782) - Pampas cat
  • Leopardus jacobita (Cornalia, 1865) - cat of the Andes
  • Leopardus tigrinus (Schreber, 1775) - northern tiger cat
  • Leopardus guttulus Hensel, 1872 - southern tiger cat
  • Leopardus guigna (Molina, 1782) - kodkod
  • Leopardus geoffroyi (d'Orbigny and Gervais, 1844) - Geoffroy's cat.

Genus Leptailurus Severtzov, 1858:

Leptailurus serval (Schreber, 1776) - serval

Genus Caracal Gray, 1843:

  • Caracal aurata (Temminck, 1827) - African golden cat
  • Caracal caracal (Schreber, 1776) - caracal.

Genus Pardofelis Severtzov, 1858:

Pardofelis marmorata (Martin, 1837) - marbled cat

Genus Catopuma Severtzov, 1858

  • Catopuma badia (Gray, 1874) - golden cat from Borneo
  • Catopuma temminckii (Vigors and Horsfield, 1827) - Asian golden cat

Subfamily Pantherinae

pantherinae genetic tree
pantherinae genetic tree

The phytogenic tree Phanterinae, lower classification of the Felidae family.

The panthers (Pantherinae) are a subfamily of felidae (Felidae), which includes the largest representatives of the family. His best known members (lion, tiger, leopard, snow leopard and jaguar) all belong to the Panthera type genus but the lower classifications include other species detailed below:

Genus Neofelis Gray, 1867:

  • Neofelis diardi (G. Cuvier, 1823) - clouded leopard from Borneo
  • Neofelis nebulosa (Griffith, 1821) - clouded leopard

Genus Panthera Oken, 1816:

  • Panthera uncia (Schreber, 1775) - snow leopard
  • Panthera tigris (Linnaeus, 1758) - tiger
  • Panthera onca (Linnaeus, 1758) - jaguar
  • Panthera pardus (Linnaeus, 1758) - leopard
  • Panthera leo (Linnaeus, 1758) - lion.