Felid Fossils: Cats | Darwin and Wallace: A Nature & Fossil Store

Felid Fossils: Cats

 

       The cats, or Felids, are a family of mammals that have climbed the ranks as some of nature's most apex predators. Most are solitary with the exception of lions, and various species use combinations of brawn, speed, agility, and strategy to take down their prey. Cats also possess excellent smell, hearing, and night vision, as well strong jaw muscles and protractible claws. Today there are two confirmed subfamilies of cats, including the pantherinae (tigers, lions, jaguars, and leopards), and felinae (all other cats), though some researchers believe that the cheetah should have its own subfamily (acinonychinae). Two other subfamilies exist in prehistory: the machairodontinae (the saber-toothed cats), and the proailurinae (the group that fathered the felid line). The fossil record indicates that cats originated in Eurasia approximately 25 million years ago during the Oligocene Epoch. This likely ancestor of the cats was a small, two-foot long predator called Proailurus, which means "first cat." Today there are 41 extant species of cat worldwide (excluding Antarctica), with the most common being the domestic cat, in which all breeds share a common ancestor that was first domesticated by humans in the Middle East approximately 10,000 years ago. 

Click on the images below to see the incredible fossils we offer in our Felid selection: