Panthera zdanskyi is an extinct species of pantherine, and the oldest known extinct species of tiger to have ever lived. The skull was found in 2011 and is the oldest complete skull found of any pantherine cat, and may hold the key to our understanding of big cat evolution. The skull dates back to the early Pleistocene period, approximately 2.5 million years ago, and was found in the Longdan Gansu Province of northwestern China.
The skull was compared to 207 tiger, 66 jaguar and 100 leopard skulls, which lead to the conclusion that the cat was in fact a very primitive tiger species. It was similar in size to a large jaguar skull - a little smaller than that of a modern tiger skull. It had a relatively long nose, a flat forehead and unusually long upper canines which were proportionally much larger than lions, leopards, jaguars and even tigers! The skull provides evidence that tigers originally evolved in China, and that as the size of prey increased, so did the size of tigers.
Illustration Credit to Jagroar
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Sofia Martinez -Villalpando, BSc