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Temporal range: Late Miocene to Holocene
Pantherinae subfamily members (from left): jaguar, leopard, lion, tiger, snow leopard and clouded leopard
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Pantherinae
Pocock, 1917

The Pantherinae is a subfamily of the Felidae; it was named and first described by Reginald Innes Pocock in 1917 as only including the Panthera species.[2] The Pantherinae genetically diverged from a common ancestor between 9.32 to 4.47 million years ago and 10.67 to 3.76 million years ago.[3][4]


Pantherinae species are characterised by an imperfectly ossified hyoid bone with elastic tendons that enable their larynx to be mobile.[2] They have a flat rhinarium that only barely reaches the dorsal side of the nose. The area between the nostrils is narrow, and not extended sidewards as in the Felinae.[5]

The Panthera species have a single, rounded, vocal fold with a thick mucosal lining, a large vocalis muscle, and a large cricothyroid muscle with long and narrow membranes. A vocal fold that is longer than 19 mm (0.75 in) enables all but the snow leopard among them to roar, as it has shorter vocal folds of 9 mm (0.35 in) that provide a lower resistance to airflow; this distinction was one reason it was proposed to be retained in the genus Uncia.[6][7]


The Felidae originated in Central Asia in the Late Miocene; the subfamily Pantherinae diverged from the Felidae between 14.45 to 8.38 million years ago and 16.35 to 7.91 million years ago.[3][4] Several fossil Panthera species were described:

An additional fossil genus Leontoceryx was described in 1938.[16]

There is evidence of distinct markers for the mitochondrial genome for Felidae.[17][18]

Results of a DNA-based study indicate that the tiger (Panthera tigris) branched off first, followed by the jaguar (P. onca), the lion (P. leo), then the leopard (P. pardus) and snow leopard (P. uncia).[19]

Felis pamiri, formerly referred to as Metailurus, is now considered a probable relative of extant Pantherinae and was moved to the genus Miopanthera.[20]


Pocock originally defined the Pantherinae as comprising the genera Panthera and Uncia.[2] Today, Uncia has been subsumed into Panthera, and the genus Neofelis is also included.[21]

Living genera[edit]

The following table shows the extant taxa within the Pantherinae, grouped according to the traditional phenotypical classification.[21]

Genus NeofelisGray, 1867 – two species
Common name Scientific name and subspecies Range Size and ecology IUCN status and estimated population
Clouded leopard

Leopard with large spots facing viewer

N. nebulosa
(Griffith, 1821)
Central Nepal to continental Southeast Asia and southern China
Map of range
Size: head to body 68.6–108 cm (27.0–42.5 in) with 61–91 cm (24–36 in) long tail[22]

Habitat: Forest and shrubland[23]

Diet: Medium-sized and small mammals on the ground and in trees, as well as birds[23]

3,700-5,600 Population declining[23]

Sunda clouded leopard

Leopard crouching under leaves at night

N. diardi
Cuvier, 1823

Two subspecies
Parts of Sumatra and Borneo
Map of range
Size: 69–108 cm (27–43 in) long, 61–91 cm (24–36 in) tail[24]

Habitat: Forest[25]

Diet: Medium-sized and small mammals[25]

4,500 Population declining[25]

Genus PantheraOken, 1816 – five species
Common name Scientific name and subspecies Range Size and ecology IUCN status and estimated population

Spotted jaguar on a rock

P. onca
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Large swathes of South and Latin America, and Arizona in the United States
Map of range
Size: 110–170 cm (43–67 in) long, 44–80 cm (17–31 in) tail[26]

Habitat: Forest, shrubland, inland wetlands, savanna, and grassland[27]

Diet: Variety of mammals, reptiles and birds, preferring ungulates[27]

Unknown Population declining[27]


Spotted leopard walking in front of grass

P. pardus
(Linnaeus, 1758)

Eight subspecies
Much of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, the Caucasus in Europe, Southeast Asia, and Siberia
Map of range
Size: 91–191 cm (36–75 in) long, 51–101 cm (20–40 in) tail[28]

Habitat: Forest, desert, rocky areas, grassland, savanna, and shrubland[29]

Diet: Ungulates, as well as other mammals, insects, reptiles, and birds[29]

Unknown Population declining[29]


Brown male lion lying in tall grass

P. leo
(Linnaeus, 1758)

Two subspecies
Sub-Saharan Africa and India
Map of range
Size: 137–250 cm (54–98 in) long, 60–100 cm (24–39 in) tail[30]

Habitat: Forest, grassland, shrubland, savanna, and desert[31]

Diet: Ungulates such as antelopes, zebra, and wildebeest, as well as other small to large mammals[31]

23,000–39,000 Population declining[31]

Snow leopard

Spotted snow leopard standing in the grass

P. uncia
(Schreber, 1775)
Himalayas reaching north to Mongolia
Map of range
Size: 90–120 cm (35–47 in) long, 80–100 cm (31–39 in) tail[32]

Habitat: Shrubland, rocky areas, forest, and grassland[33]

Diet: Caprids such as sheep and goats, as well as small mammals and birds[33]

2,700–3,400 Population declining[33]


Large orange tiger with black stripes

P. tigris
(Linnaeus, 1758)

Two subspecies
Scattered sections of Southeast Asia, Indian subcontinent, and Siberia
Map of range
Size: 150–230 cm (59–91 in) long, 90–110 cm (35–43 in) tail[34]

Habitat: Shrubland, forest, and grassland[35]

Diet: Deer and wild pigs, as well as a wide variety of other animals[35]

2,600–3,900 Population declining[35]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ a b c Pocock, R. I. (1917). "The Classification of existing Felidae". The Annals and Magazine of Natural History. Series 8. XX: 329–350. doi:10.1080/00222931709487018.
  3. ^ a b Johnson, W. E.; Eizirik, E.; Pecon-Slattery, J.; Murphy, W. J.; Antunes, A.; Teeling, E. & O'Brien, S. J. (2006). "The late Miocene radiation of modern Felidae: a genetic assessment". Science. 311 (5757): 73–77. Bibcode:2006Sci...311...73J. doi:10.1126/science.1122277. PMID 16400146. S2CID 41672825.
  4. ^ a b Li, G.; Davis, B. W.; Eizirik, E. & Murphy, W. J. (2016). "Phylogenomic evidence for ancient hybridization in the genomes of living cats (Felidae)". Genome Research. 26 (1): 1–11. doi:10.1101/gr.186668.114. PMC 4691742. PMID 26518481.
  5. ^ Hemmer, H. (1966). "Untersuchungen zur Stammesgeschichte der Pantherkatzen (Pantherinae). Teil I" [Researching the phylogenetic history of the Pantherinae. Part I]. Veröffentlichungen der Zoologischen Staatssammlung München. 11: 1–121.
  6. ^ Hast, M. H. (1989). "The larynx of roaring and non-roaring cats". Journal of Anatomy. 163: 117–121. PMC 1256521. PMID 2606766.
  7. ^ Weissengruber, G. E.; Forstenpointner, G.; Peters, G.; Kübber-Heiss, A.; Fitch, W. T. (2002). "Hyoid apparatus and pharynx in the lion (Panthera leo), jaguar (Panthera onca), tiger (Panthera tigris), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and domestic cat (Felis silvestris f. catus)". Journal of Anatomy. 201 (3): 195–209. doi:10.1046/j.1469-7580.2002.00088.x. PMC 1570911. PMID 12363272.
  8. ^ Tseng, Z.J.; Wang, X.; Slater, G.J.; Takeuchi, G.T.; Li, Q.; Liu, J. & Xie, G. (2014). "Himalayan fossils of the oldest known pantherine establish ancient origin of big cats". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 281 (1774): 20132686. doi:10.1098/rspb.2013.2686. PMC 3843846. PMID 24225466.
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  10. ^ Marciszak, A. (2014). "Presence of Panthera gombaszoegensis (Kretzoi, 1938) in the late Middle Pleistocene of Biśnik Cave, Poland, with an overview of Eurasian jaguar size variability". Quaternary International. 326–327: 105–113. Bibcode:2014QuInt.326..105M. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2013.12.029.
  11. ^ Sotnikova, M.V. & Foronova, I.V. (2014). "First Asian record of Panthera (Leo) fossilis (Mammalia, Carnivora, Felidae) in the Early Pleistocene of Western Siberia, Russia". Integrative Zoology. 9 (4): 517–530. doi:10.1111/1749-4877.12082. PMID 24382145.
  12. ^ Burger, J.; Rosendahl, W.; Loreille, O.; Hemmer, H.; Eriksson, T.; Götherström, A.; Hiller, J.; Collins, M. J.; Wess, T. & Alt, K. W. (2004). "Molecular phylogeny of the extinct cave lion Panthera leo spelaea". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 30 (3): 841–849. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2003.07.020. PMID 15012963.
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  15. ^ Stinnesbeck, S. R.; Stinnesbeck, W.; Frey, E.; Avilés Olguín, J.; Rojas Sandoval, C.; Velázquez Morlet, A.; González, A. H. (2019). "Panthera balamoides and other Pleistocene felids from the submerged caves of Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico". Historical Biology: An International Journal of Paleobiology. 32 (7): 930–939. doi:10.1080/08912963.2018.1556649. S2CID 92328512.
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  17. ^ Wei, L.; Wu, X. & Jiang, Z. (2008). "The complete mitochondrial genome structure of snow leopard Panthera uncia". Molecular Biology Reports. 36 (5): 871–878. doi:10.1007/s11033-008-9257-9. PMID 18431688. S2CID 22736941.
  18. ^ Yu, L.; Qing-wei, L.; Ryder, O.A. & Ya-ping, Z. (2004). "Phylogenetic relationships within mammalian order Carnivora indicated by sequences of two nuclear DNA genes" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 33 (3): 694–705. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2004.08.001. PMID 15522797. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-07.
  19. ^ Yu, L.; Zhang, Y. P. (2005). "Phylogenetic studies of pantherine cats (Felidae) based on multiple genes, with novel application of nuclear beta fibrinogen intron 7 to carnivores". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 35 (2): 483–495. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.01.017. PMID 15804417.
  20. ^ Geraads, D.; Peigné, S. (2016). "Re-Appraisal of Felis pamiri Ozansoy, 1959 (Carnivora, Felidae) from the Upper Miocene of Turkey: the Earliest Pantherine Cat?". Journal of Mammalian Evolution. 24 (4): 415–425. doi:10.1007/s10914-016-9349-6. S2CID 207195894.
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  34. ^ "CatSG: Tiger". International Union for Conservation of Nature Cat Specialist Group. Archived from the original on November 12, 2014. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
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External links[edit]