Mountain lions are the largest species of cat that purr

Mountain lions and saber tooth cats have a common ancestor and, although extinct, the saber tooth cat left its mark on how big cats have evolved. Today, scientists group felines into two main branches; those that roar and those that purr. Mountain lions are the largest of the purring cats.

A few cats who have what it takes to purr include the lynx, bobcat, and ocelot. Seven cat species live in North America, all are in the purring club except the jaguar. The ability to purr depends on the structure and rigidity of the hyoid bone, an anchoring structure of the tongue. These cats vibrate their voice boxes, which causes the hyoid bone to reverberate, creating that purring sound we are so familiar with. Scientists believe that the structure of the saber tooth cat’s hyoid bone indicated that it could roar, like an African lion.

The evolution of the purring feline remains a mystery. It has been proposed that purring helps to cover up the sounds of kittens mewling to protect the family from predators. Purring can also be used as a way for mom and kittens to bond and mom cats use purring as a comforting lullaby. What we do know for sure is that purring is adorable, and we’re happy they evolved such a relaxing trait.

Lisa Wooden

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