It’s a history mystery!


It’s a history mystery! Feline fossil records are shrouded in mystery with five different theories claiming to map the various groups and subgroups of extinct and modern cats. Historically, felines have occupied tropical forests where environmental conditions are less than ideal for fossil preservation.

Through scarce fossil records, scientists have detected structural similarities between all felines. However, we are still left with vague evidence of the evolution of cats. Thankfully, scientists are in agreement on a few feline facts.

Upper jaw of mountain lion collected in cave in 1936. Image by the National Park Service.

One hypothesis is that the ancestral line goes back to a meat eating, tree dwelling mammal called Miacids. It lived between 39-60 million years ago. Around 40 million years ago it split into two groups, one being the “cat-like” group that also includes hyenas and mongooses- crazy, right? It was at this point the saber-tooth cats came into existence, which started the line to cats we know, and possibly cuddle with today.

Miacidae fossil found in Germany

Head over to OneZoom’s website to explore the family tree of carnivores. You might be surprised at the taxonomic grouping of various felines! You can zoom in and out of the ancestral lineages and explore your favorite canines or felines – see a preview below.


Vastly spanning the spectrum for habitats, behavior and biology, felines truly are majestic creatures. No wonder they left us little to follow from their ancestral tracks – it’s part of their beauty secret!

Lisa Wooden

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