The oldest big cat fossils ever found – from a previously unknown species “similar to a snow leopard” – have been unearthed in the Himalayas.

The skull fragments of the newly-named Panthera blytheae have been dated between 4.1 and 5.95 million years old.

Their discovery in Tibet supports the theory that big cats evolved in central Asia – not Africa – and spread outward.

The fossils, which were discovered on the Tibetan plateau, belong to a sister species of the snow leopard that prowls the Himalayan region today, said study co-author Zhijie Jack Tseng, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

The new study also reveals that all cats diverged about 16 million years ago, about 5 million years earlier than was previously thought.

The group of felines known as “big cats” includes tigers, leopards, lions and jaguars, as well as snow leopards and clouded leopards. But exactly where and when they evolved hasn’t been clear.

Credit: Live Science

Picture Credit : Google

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