World’s Oldest Tiger Species Discovered
by Charles Choi
The oldest extinct species of tiger known yet has been discovered in China, scientists say. Although the skull of the more than 2-million-year-old fossil is smaller than most modern tigers, it appears very similar in shape, researchers added.
The tiger (Panthera tigris) is one of the largest living cats, a giant predator native to Asia reaching up to 13 feet (4 meters) in length, including its tail, and weighing up to 660 pounds (300 kilograms). The beast’s origins are under intense debate, with suggestions it arose in north-central China, southern China or northern Siberia.
Now scientists have discovered a new skull and jaw from an extinct jaguar-sized tiger in northwestern China dating back 2.16 million to 2.55 million years, predating other known tiger fossils by up to a half-million years. This represents the oldest complete skull hitherto found of a pantherine cat — the lineage that includes tigers and all other living big cats…
(read more: Live Science) (image: Velizar Simeonovski et al, PLoS ONE)