Article: Not a jaguar after all? Phylogenetic affinities and morphology of the Pleistocene felid Panthera gombaszoegensis
Publication: Papers in Palaeontology
Abstract Panthera gombaszoegensis is a fossil pantherine from the Pleistocene of Eurasia. It has been considered to be the closest ancestor the jaguar (Panthera onca) due to dental similarities, and has even sometimes been considered to be a subspecies of jaguar. However, our knowledge of this taxon is limited by the scarcity of cranial remains, which has made it difficult to properly assess the phylogenetic affinities and possible ecological role of this taxon. Here, we describe a new cranium of P. gombaszoegensis from Belgium, and present a morphometric analysis of the cranium and dentition of extinct and extant pantherines. Whereas the lower dentition of P. gombaszoegensis is similar to that of P. onca, similarities were not recovered in other parts of the skull. Some cranial traits of P. gombaszoegensis resemble those of other pantherines, especially larger species such as the tiger (P. tigris), while some similarities to taxa such as tiger (P. tigris), lion (P. leo) and leopard (P. pardus) in the skull of P. gombaszoegensis suggest a diet adapted to a wide prey spectrum. The first ever assessment of the phylogenetic placement of P. gombaszoegensis places this taxon closer to P. tigris than to P. onca, which considerably simplifies the biogeographic history of pantherines.