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Puma concolor – variously called the Puma, Mountain Lion, Cougar, or Panther. Second only to the Jaguar in size, Pumas range through much of North America.

Around 13,000 years ago, as the last Ice Age was drawing to a close, a variety of large cats inhabited North and South America. These included the now-extinct sabretooths (Smilodon and Homotherium), the American lion-like cat (Panthera atrox), and the cheetah-like cat (Miracinonyx trumani). Of the big cats, only the puma (Puma concolor) and jaguar (Panthera onca) survive in the Americas today. Contrary to a popular misconception, none of the sabretooth cats was ever a tiger.

Researchers have employed computer modeling to create an updated family tree for the ancient cats. They compared DNA from modern cat-family species with 13,000 year old DNA extracted from the preserved bones of two sabretooths and the American cheetah-like cat with DNA from modern cat-family and other carnivore species. The American cheetah-like cat and the true cheetah show remarkable developmental similarity (including elongated limbs and enlarged nostrils), genetic data indicates that this similarity is an example of parallel evolution – the development of similar bodies in response to similar ecological pressures.

Big Cat Slideshows. Cougar . Cougar carrying Cub . Cooper's Rock Mountain Lion Sanctuary . Jaguar . Walking with Beasts . More sabretooths Scimitar cat Homotherium serum . Dinobastis serus skeleton . Dinobastis serus skull . Friesenhahn Cave . Panthera atrox skull . La Brea asphalt pits, CA .

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