Phylogenetics of Panthera, Including Panthera Atrox, Based on Craniodental Characters

Document Type


Publication Date



The phylogenetic position of Panthera atrox within Felidae is still controversial despite many morphological and molecular studies addressing its relationships. This is in part due to the lack of consensus on a tree for Panthera. These inconsistencies suggest the need for further analysis and perhaps even different methodology to better understand pantherine evolution. Morphologic characters from the skull and dentary were analysed within Panthera to elucidate pantherine phylogeny. Extant taxa included Panthera leo (African lion), Panthera tigris (tiger), Panthera onca (jaguar), Panthera pardus (leopard), Uncia uncia (snow leopard) and Neofelis nebulosa (clouded leopard). Four outgroups were used: Crocuta crocuta (spotted hyena), Metailurus spp., Proailurus lemanensis and Pseudaelurus validus. Our study found a clade containing Panthera leo, Panthera tigris and Panthera atrox, suggesting that Panthera atrox is more closely related to the African lion and the tiger than the jaguar, in contrast to what has been recently proposed. Moreover, gross morphological similarities between Panthera atrox and Panthera onca are more likely the result of convergent hunting styles and/or prey selection, rather than phylogenetic affinity.