The Ghostly Origins of the Big Cats

  • Published: 17 May 2019
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    All of today’s big cat species evolved less than 11 million years ago and yet their evolutionary history remains an almost total mystery. But scientists have recently discovered a major clue about the origins of the big cats, one that could provide a whole new starting place for solving this puzzle.

    Thanks to Ceri Thomas for the excellent Panthera blytheae and Panthera atrox! Check out more of Ceri's paleoart at and

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    Tseng, Z. J. et al. (2014). Himalayan fossils of the oldest known pantherine establish ancient origin of big cats. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 281: 20132686.
    Johnson, W. et al. (2006). The Late Miocene radiation of modern Felidae: a genetic assessment. Science 311: 73-77.
    Davis, B. et al. (2010). Supermatrix and species tree methods resolve phylogenetic relationships within the big cats, Panthera (Carnivora: Felidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 56: 64-76.
    Turner, A. and Antón, M. (1997). The big cats and their fossil relatives. New York: Columbia University Press.
    Werderlin, L. and Lewis, M.E. (2005). Plio-Pleistocene Carnivora of eastern Africa: species richness and turnover patterns. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 144: 121–144.
    Zhou Y. et al. (2017). Comprehensive species set revealing the phylogeny and biogeography of Feliformia (Mammalia, Carnivora) based on mitochondrial DNA. PLoS ONE 12(3): e0174902.
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Comments • 1 536

  • closetdrakefan
    closetdrakefan  1 days back

    Simple. They came from Thundera

    • Marcel Al Kees
      Marcel Al Kees  2 days back

      Gorgons are the ancestors of big cats

      • Matty Matt
        Matty Matt  3 days back

        cats arent from earth. they came from Thundera

        • Allan Bullock
          Allan Bullock  4 days back

          How do they know the lineage is 11 million years if they don’t have 11 million year old fossils?

          • Ghostmane 666
            Ghostmane 666  4 days back


            • SadWings Raging
              SadWings Raging  4 days back

              When you get it right the first time,,,,,,

              • rob32tn
                rob32tn  5 days back

                I`m dying to know more about how HERRERSAURUS ., how it seemed more reptilian then its successor`s in the Jurassic and so on ? PLEASE? Just HERRERSAURUS period would be super nice and way awesome.

                • Debra Bridges
                  Debra Bridges  5 days back

                  The sabertooth tiger wasn't mentioned. ????????

                  • Martin  Hunt
                    Martin Hunt  6 days back

                    Planet 9x as we are ET

                    • bigD Shafer steadman
                      bigD Shafer steadman  6 days back

                      For goodness sake 😂 it's sis not seese

                    • Lis Sanguinan
                      Lis Sanguinan  6 days back

                      That's just...normal cat behavior...ghost out and be mysterious about everything...where'd the socks go, the paw in the yoghurt dish, the hair balls, the bones of your ancestors...m

                      • Doc Zaius
                        Doc Zaius  6 days back

                        I would like to see something on the organs of the Coatimundi and Racoons and how they are related to bears

                        • SatumainenOlento
                          SatumainenOlento  7 days back

                          Typical cat behavior...illusive and mysterious 😊

                          • RumblinTumblin CowboyShumblin

                            Favorite big cat ? Mine is the Jaguar

                            • mahfuz munna munna
                              mahfuz munna munna  7 days back

                              the reason behind our ignorance about big cats ancestors is that people dont want to invest lot of money on this type of research. moreover probably few people are really interested on this subject

                              • Travis Huggard
                                Travis Huggard  1 weeks back

                                What about smilodon and other sabre toothed cats? I thought that they would atleast share some ancestry.

                                • Steve Pittman
                                  Steve Pittman  1 weeks back

                                  Every one of those theorized big cats yells 'I was drawn by someone who doesn't know how to draw cats.' They all look just a bit off, in different ways.

                                  • Kolos
                                    Kolos  1 weeks back

                                    They died, resurrected and ascended.

                                    • Anthony Witchingmoon
                                      Anthony Witchingmoon  1 weeks back

                                      Big cats are awesome

                                      • Mac Chernac
                                        Mac Chernac  1 weeks back

                                        So you are telling me my cats are Russian. No wonder they look pissed off all the time.

                                        • mig sup
                                          mig sup  1 weeks back

                                          What about saber tooth Tiger


                                          • Mahima Romanoffsallymw
                                            Mahima Romanoffsallymw  1 weeks back

                                            So us Indians are from cat land. 😬😒 I'm a dog person. I was born in wrong place 😔

                                            • Iman Ghosh
                                              Iman Ghosh  1 weeks back

                                              Asia has Lions Tigers Leopards Cheetahs Snow leopards. Way more big cat species than Africa. Most of them are extinct / near Extinction, but that's relatively modern phenomenon, because of human over hunting, not natural Extinction. It's very much possible that big cats originated in Asia.

                                              • Rayan Ighil
                                                Rayan Ighil  1 weeks back

                                                I really want a domisticated lion

                                                • Flybynight 3
                                                  Flybynight 3  1 weeks back

                                                  We're so worried about big cats! But you walk into the jungle and a jaguar will run from humans usually ,yet housecats fooled us for millions of years they no where we sleep they know your passwords and they are making you feed them and clean up after them meanwhile they knock your stuff off the counter while staring you in the eye and as anyone with a cat knows They can open doors!!!

                                                  • Lord Bolton
                                                    Lord Bolton  2 weeks back

                                                    J A G U A I E R

                                                    • GabrielDrewDavis
                                                      GabrielDrewDavis  2 weeks back

                                                      I’m surprise sabertooth tigers weren’t mentioned in this whole video

                                                      • Spencer Hosch
                                                        Spencer Hosch  2 weeks back

                                                        What if they are an offshoot of the ancestors of the canines?

                                                        • ArrowHead x
                                                          ArrowHead x  2 weeks back

                                                          Cats are climbing dogs

                                                          • David Ramos
                                                            David Ramos  2 weeks back

                                                            Check with the thonder cats

                                                            • Cameron Boggs
                                                              Cameron Boggs  2 weeks back

                                                              would the lack of fossil evidence possibly infer that the modern species came in a vary similar form to what they are today? perhaps use ancient geography to search in between the Himalayas and Africa. for all we know the ancient big cats could be under the red sea or something lol

                                                              • Victor Dalesten
                                                                Victor Dalesten  2 weeks back

                                                                Please do a video on the origin of seals!

                                                                • Dariyon hyche the Clouded leopard

                                                                  I'm a Clouded leopard

                                                                  • Fernanda Zavala
                                                                    Fernanda Zavala  3 weeks back

                                                                    I have a lion 🦁 and he likes to play with me

                                                                    • Thylaco Coalthy
                                                                      Thylaco Coalthy  3 weeks back

                                                                      All the basal Panthera species are in Asia and all the species have existed in Asia at some point.

                                                                      Guy looking for Big Cat Origins before 2010: "Ima only look in Africa"

                                                                      Seems like a likely story doesn't it.

                                                                      • JohnThule B
                                                                        JohnThule B  3 weeks back

                                                                        Conclusion:big cats came from the inner earth

                                                                        • Monkey Guy80
                                                                          Monkey Guy80  3 weeks back

                                                                          Tiger & the Snow Leopard are the nicest felines

                                                                          • Ben Andoh
                                                                            Ben Andoh  3 weeks back

                                                                            An adage in my culture states an arrow shot is determined by a type of bow.....cats fossils can be determined by their preys...Casper captured

                                                                            • Alden Ze German
                                                                              Alden Ze German  3 weeks back

                                                                              The most amazing thing is we can only find the fossils of the certain ones fossilized but we shall never know the history of the missing animal skeletons that did not get fossil

                                                                              • big lil
                                                                                big lil  3 weeks back

                                                                                I wish they would talk about the giant Natodomeri lion

                                                                                • Luthuli Sanele
                                                                                  Luthuli Sanele  4 weeks back

                                                                                  It's the first time I hear Scientist saying they honestly don't know. I like it, but then again the question that I have is Why exactly do we need to know where our amazing cats descended from?

                                                                                  • Sawrattan
                                                                                    Sawrattan  4 weeks back

                                                                                    We even know more about t-rex evolution than big cats!

                                                                                    • Joe
                                                                                      Joe  4 weeks back

                                                                                      how about the saber-toothed cats, do they not have any relation?

                                                                                      • kamion53
                                                                                        kamion53  4 weeks back

                                                                                        btw I recommend "the Big Cats and their fossil relatives" or "Sabertooth" by Mauricio Anton on this subject, very nice illustrated.

                                                                                      • kamion53
                                                                                        kamion53  4 weeks back

                                                                                        There were three groups of Sabertooths, first the Nimravidae, a group of Carnivora that split of early from the Cat-group( that includes Cat's Hyeana's and mangoest, but not belong to either of those families, then the Barbourofelidae, a sistergroup to Felidae, but not belonging to the cat familie and last the Machairodontinae to which the well know Smilodon belongs, which was a subfamilie of the true cats. Not all sabertooths were big animals, they variated from housecat size to tiger size, Barbourofelis fricki was the last and largest of its line and the same for Smilodon populator. Big species tend to be specialists and specialist are most vulnarable to change. Sabertooths and Big cats lived a long period next to each other, but I think the Big Cats were the more adaptable ones, so they survided.

                                                                                    • A.J.'s Adventures in Asia

                                                                                      I use Express VPN, it is pretty good

                                                                                      • betoen
                                                                                        betoen  4 weeks back

                                                                                        Any idea of why we like cats this much?

                                                                                        • j k
                                                                                          j k  1 months back

                                                                                          (Pssst - use different clips when you're showing occasional footage of the same animal).

                                                                                          • Darwin Jones
                                                                                            Darwin Jones  1 months back

                                                                                            Humans didn't come from Africa either.

                                                                                            • CH ii
                                                                                              CH ii  1 months back

                                                                                              never saw my cat died ... they just disappear ..