The world's first tigers?

When did the first tigers walk the earth? It is a big question and one we have difficulty answering. It remains an evolving topic of discussion. In 2011 it was reported that the oldest extinct species of tiger had been discovered in China. The fossil was dated as being more than 2 million years old (2.16-2.55 million years). This predated earlier findings by 0.5 million years.

Depiction of an ancient tiger perhaps one of the world's first.
Depiction of an ancient tiger perhaps one of the world's first. Image: Image credit:
Velizar Simeonovski et al, PLoS ONE

This ancient tiger, perhaps one of the first to walk the earth, was smaller than today's and was the size of a modern day jaguar, and therefore considerably smaller.

They named the species: Panthera zdanskyi after the Austrian palaeontologist Otto Zdansky, now deceased. The fossil was uncovered in 2004 at Gansu in China.

Judging by the shape of the skull, they decided that it was a male. It is similar to modern tigers'. And they believe the diet would have been similar too: mainly ungulates such as deer and wild pigs.

It is believed that the tiger evolved in north-central China, southern China or northern Siberia. 

The other big cats evolved at a similar time. I have a page on that topic which you can access by clicking here.


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