By Alan Rabinowitz
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Additional info for An Indomitable Beast: The Remarkable Journey of the Jaguar
Research into the American cheetah has been contradictory. Originally believed to have been an early puma, it was reclassified in the 1970s as a relative of the modern cheetah. This suggested that ancestors of the cheetah diverged from the puma lineage in the Americas and migrated back to the Old World. But recent research of mitochondrial DNA has suggested that the American cheetah might, in fact, be more closely related to puma and not to the modern cheetah of Africa and Asia. Fossil evidence of the leopard has never been found in North America, despite this species always having been widely distributed and utilizing a wide variety of habitats and prey.
To get to the essence of the jaguar and its influence on the people with whom it lived, we must examine not only some of the biological and sociocultural factors of human evolution, but also the interactions between humans and jaguars that shaped cultural beliefs and behavior between these two species unlike anything else seen on the planet, past or present. � The earliest hominids that evolved on what is today the African continent lived on foods that could only be picked or gathered: plants, fruits, invertebrates.
It was at least half a million years after the tiger when the first jaguar-like Panthera cats (P. onca toscana), the stem population, came on the scene and started to disperse across Europe. A recent discovery by Z. Jack Tseng and his associates of a fossil pantherine from the Tibetan Himalayas, named Panthera blytheae and dated between 4 and 6 million years old from the late Miocene–early Pliocene, extends the known fossil record for these cats back approximately 2 million years and provides definitive proof for the Asian, not African, origin of the pantherines.