Archeologists working in the Tibetan Himalayas have discovered a fossilized skull of the Panthera blytheae believed to be the ancient precursor to all modern lions, tigers, and leopards. The discovery adds weight to the theory that modern “big cats” may have evolved in Asia, rather than Africa as was previously thought.
This new archeological find is rewriting the ancient history of big cats, and has moved previous timelines back several million years, as the AP reports:
The nearly complete skull dug up in Tibet was estimated at 4.4 million years old — older than the big cat remains recovered from Tanzania dating to about 3.7 million years ago, the team reported. […]
By analyzing the surrounding rocks and soil, the researchers determined the skull’s age.
The fossil is “convincingly older than the current record holder,” said David Polly, a paleontologist at Indiana University who had no role in the study.
Polly said in an email that there’s also good evidence that the big cat lived in the Tibetan plateau and there could be even older big cat fossils there to uncover.
This discovery comes just as the Chinese scientific establishment is starting to get over its long-standing (yet wildly inaccurate) “Peking Man” archaeological theory, so perhaps the “Peking Cat” (or, rather “Himalayan Feline”) can supply a new generation with an interest in the country’s ancient past.
[Photo via Live Science]