The Ghostly Origins of the Big Cats

  • Published on: 16 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.
  • Runtime : 8:32
  • dinosaurs dinos paleo paleontology scishow eons pbs pbs digital studios hank green john green complexly fossils natural history American Lion Leopard Big Cats Panthera Jaguar Lions Tigers Leopards ghost lineage Pleistocene Epoch Olduvai Laetoli molecular clock Panthera blytheae Eurasian cave lion himalayas Panthera atrox


  • Ezra De Guzman
    Ezra De Guzman   3 days ago

    Sekhmet and Bast, the twin daughters of Ra, arrived from Orion and genetically modified some cats to get an A on their science project.

  • Aidan Quill
    Aidan Quill   1 weeks ago

    Ur saying Jaguar wrong its called a jaguar not a jagwire

  • Ganesh B
    Ganesh B   1 weeks ago

    why do your legs look odd

  • LON3 Wolve
    LON3 Wolve   1 weeks ago

    Wakanda took the panther evidence of old panther

  • aaron laluzerne
    aaron laluzerne   1 weeks ago

    And watch paleontologists find the fossil remains of the big cats ancestors 3-5 years from now which would make this video outdated, inaccurate, and obsolete.

  • SonGokuSSJ3
    SonGokuSSJ3   1 weeks ago

    You have no record of their lineage but you know it’s there? How? You have no proof to back up your claim

  • Whiskey Bravo
    Whiskey Bravo   2 weeks ago

    Can not genetics confirm their lineage in the absence of fossils? I type...and then they explain the problem...

  • Marcio Coelho
    Marcio Coelho   2 weeks ago

    My cat overheard this audio segment but completely ignored it, sitting on a pillow and sipping red wine by the fire place. I think he knows something.

  • I_r_d_f_c
    I_r_d_f_c   2 weeks ago

    1:44 the clouded leopard is me... cuz I’m never involved in anything

  • Uung Uung
    Uung Uung   2 weeks ago

    So uhhhhhhh are we just forgetting all about saber tooth tigers????

  • mrv
    mrv   2 weeks ago

    They truly have no past, lucky them. Also "Proto Lions".

  • SirDabaSlab
    SirDabaSlab   3 weeks ago

    Just when I thought just about everything had been explored on this watery space rock.

    ALI AZHAR KHAN   3 weeks ago

    In Pakistan Domestic Cats and other Small Cats are called as maternal aunts of Lions and Tigers etc...Maybe they knew about their great ancestors....HAHAHAHA......

  • Billionaire30 XYZ
    Billionaire30 XYZ   3 weeks ago

    Just because a certain fossil is found somewhere other than Africa, doesn't mean the species didn't still originate in Africa. At one time all the land masses were connected, so many creatures migrated out of their original homelands for different reasons, ( climate changes, moving herds of prey, etc.)

  • Unhumanized
    Unhumanized   3 weeks ago

    Of course we were looking in the wrong area

  • Amazing Probst
    Amazing Probst   3 weeks ago

    Why is that lion wearing a collar @ 3:55?Is she overdressed, or are her companions underdressed?

  • Long Forgotten
    Long Forgotten   3 weeks ago

    Asia is the new frontier in fossil fines. From dinosaurs two big cats apparently.

  • KL Rider
    KL Rider   3 weeks ago

    Video starts at 5:20. She rambled too long about the ghost lineage issue.

  • Jason Jensen
    Jason Jensen   3 weeks ago

    Massive extinction events create room for species to fill the gaps environments for predators (such as they may be for survivors) to allow for the sudden and rapid evolution of the Big Cats into those niches. As far as how they spread so efficiently across the globe, I figure they heard a can opener somewhere. Hehehehe Also, did you hear about the Arctic Fox with a tracker that crossed the Arctic from Norway to Canada in like 78 days? Granted, it's an Arctic Fox designed to do just that task, but still.... It's not as much of a barrier as once imagined for creatures hardier than we, today.

  • Stephanie Florence
    Stephanie Florence   3 weeks ago

    Start looking for fossilized boxes and you'll find the ghost cats.

  • isaiah wolftail
    isaiah wolftail   4 weeks ago

    Scientists check the mountian tops seriously think about it our cats like high places so they can see their little environment so most likely their ancestors bones are most likely at mountain tops and buried beneath the rocks of the crumbling mountians over time.

  • Kolerick Bloodmoon
    Kolerick Bloodmoon   4 weeks ago

    Tiger: I'm the best "cat". Stronger than any other.Lion: I'm the best "cat". My mane show my might.Domestic cat: look and your prey of old and now hunters, who feed me. I, am the best cat. my psy powers allow me to enslave them.

  • Réal Morrissette
    Réal Morrissette   4 weeks ago

    I read that cats do recognize their name. That means only one thing, cats are jerks.

  • James Waber
    James Waber   1 months ago

    wouldn't it be funny if, in essence, the reason no big cat ancestor was found is the reverse? their ancestor is so close to them in appearance and everything that in layman's terms they are basically the same thing as their ancestor? the first proto-lion was indeed about 10 million years old but was a lion as we know it today and just inconsequentially/indistinguishabily different

  • creativechaosify
    creativechaosify   1 months ago

    Wait, I heard that cats and dogs have a common ancestor (?)

  • pyramid architect
    pyramid architect   1 months ago

    Cats all derived from their forefathers Jaga in Panthera case closed.