With their large size, predatory habits and elusive nature, big cats have always inspired people’s interest. Currently, five species are included in the genus: Panthera leo, Panthera pardus, Panthera onca, Panthera tigris, and Panthera uncia. Zoologists now divide each species into subspecies according to differences in habitat, fur color, and size, but very few of the morphological features that differentiate to each group can be recognized from bones and fossils. Not all of the aforementioned species were present on the European mainland from the beginning of their evolution: no evidence has been discovered for the presence of Panthera uncia and Panthera tigris, which seem to have lived only on the Asian subcontinent. A few pieces of evidence for the presence of Panthera onca have been found in Europe, but only in the Early Pleistocene, while lions and leopards are known to have appeared 0.6-1 Mya and survived through the Last Glacial Maximum up to the Latest Pleistocene, when they disappeared from Europe. Although both species were present in the same geographic area, their roles within the food chain were based on mutual avoidance and separate social structures. Paleontologists have looked at intraspecific morphological variations in order to identify different subspecies and adaptations present on the continent over this period. This chapter will examine fossil discoveries and significant evidence pointing to the presence of these big cats in Europe, in order to track their rise as top predators and their recent fall due to climate changes and increases in global human population.

Evolution and presence of genus panthera in the pleistocene of Europe

Ghezzo E.
2018

Abstract

With their large size, predatory habits and elusive nature, big cats have always inspired people’s interest. Currently, five species are included in the genus: Panthera leo, Panthera pardus, Panthera onca, Panthera tigris, and Panthera uncia. Zoologists now divide each species into subspecies according to differences in habitat, fur color, and size, but very few of the morphological features that differentiate to each group can be recognized from bones and fossils. Not all of the aforementioned species were present on the European mainland from the beginning of their evolution: no evidence has been discovered for the presence of Panthera uncia and Panthera tigris, which seem to have lived only on the Asian subcontinent. A few pieces of evidence for the presence of Panthera onca have been found in Europe, but only in the Early Pleistocene, while lions and leopards are known to have appeared 0.6-1 Mya and survived through the Last Glacial Maximum up to the Latest Pleistocene, when they disappeared from Europe. Although both species were present in the same geographic area, their roles within the food chain were based on mutual avoidance and separate social structures. Paleontologists have looked at intraspecific morphological variations in order to identify different subspecies and adaptations present on the continent over this period. This chapter will examine fossil discoveries and significant evidence pointing to the presence of these big cats in Europe, in order to track their rise as top predators and their recent fall due to climate changes and increases in global human population.
The Pleistocene: Geography, Geology, and Fauna
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3722919
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