Oldest ever big cat skull found in Himalayas dates back six million years

Updated: 

The skull of the world's oldest big cat has been found in the Himalayas in Tibet - and dates back around six million years.

The creature is thought to be a completely new species, named Panthera blytheae, and is a relative of the snow leopard.

US scientists say the new discovery sheds light on the evolution of lions, jaguars and tigers, suggesting the Earth's big cats evolved in Asia and spread outwards, with the Tibetan plateau being an important region for understanding their diversification.

According to the Daily Mail, the skull's finder, Dr Jack Tseng, of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, said: "This find suggests big cats have a deeper evolutionary origin than previously suspected."

According to the Mirror, Dr Tseng added: "This cat is a sister of living snow leopards - it has a broad forehead and a short face. But it's a little smaller - the size of clouded leopards."

Dr Tseng found the skull with his wife, Dr Juan Liu of Alberta University in Canada, but the findings have only recently been published in the Royal Society journal.

Related articles

Dorset man finds fossil of 60ft pre-historic marine reptile

Fossil of pre-historic flying dragon found on copper slate