Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The 7 Big Cat Species

Original source : http://www.wonders-world.com
Posted : February 2010
Author : 

Today, there are only seven species of big cats that survived from what was - about 25 million years ago - a remarkably diverse group of large felid carnivores. These seven living species are classified into three groups that include the Panthera, Felis, and Acinonyx. Each species is quite unique and can be distinguished from the others by their different body size, behaviours, and appearance.

1.Tiger - Panthera tigris
The tiger (Panthera tigris) is the largest of all cats. The tiger is one of four species that belong to the genus Panthera, more commonly referred to as the 'roaring cats'. Tigers are solitary animals that prefer the cover of dense vegetation - a habitat in which they can stalk their prey. Their range once extended throughout India and southeastern Asia, from the Caspian Sea to northern China and Siberia. The tiger's coat is orange with black stripes and white markings on its face, chest, and underside. Eight subspecies of tiger have been identified, though three of those subspecies have been extinct since the 1950s. The extinct subspecies include the Caspian, Javan, and Bali tigers.

2.Lion - Panthera leo
The lion (Panthera leo) is the second largest cat species and, like the tiger, is a member of the genus Panthera. Lions have a buff-colored coat, white underparts, and a long tail that ends in a black tuft of fur. Today, lions inhabit the savanna regions of sub-Saharan Africa. There is also a relic population of less than 300 lions that live in the Gir forest in the northwestern corner of India. Lions form groups known as prides that include 2 to 40 individuals. Prides generally consist of a group of related females that are joined by several males that take over the pride and remain with it for several years before being replaced by competing males. Lions hunt in groups and often take down prey species that greatly outsize them.

3.Jaguar - Panthera onca
Panthers, also called jaguars, (Panthera onca) are the world's third largest species of cat, only lions and tigers are larger. Adults weigh between 100 and 250 lbs and measure about 4 ft in length. Jaguars are usually tan with black rosettes (a ring of spots with another spot in the center). They live in a variety of different habitats including dense rainforest, scrubland, and grasslands. Their range extends from the souther parts of Arizona and New Mexico through central America to northern Argentina and northeastern Brazil. Jaguars, alongside lions, leopards, and tigers, belong to genus Panthera.

4.Leopard - Panthera pardus
The leopard (Panthera pardus) is the most widely distributed member of the genus Panthera. The present-day range of the leopard includes Africa, the Near and Middle East, southern Asia, and the Malaysian archipelago. Leopards are secretive and mostly solitary cats that inhabit a wide range of habitats including lowland forests, savannahs, mountains, scrublands, and deserts. The leopard's coat has a background color of pale, cream-yellow on its underside that darkens slightly to an orange-brown on its back. Solid black spots adorn its limbs and head, smaller and denser than the golden, umber-centered rosettes that cover its back and sides. The leopard's tale has irregular patches that, at the tip of the tale, become dark-ringed bands.

5.Snow Leopard - Panthera uncia
The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is a large species of cat that roams the mountain ranges of central and southern Asia. The snow leopard is well adapted for the cold temperatures of its high-altitude habitat. It has a plush coat of fur that grows quite long - the fur on its back grows to one inch in length, the fur on its tail is two inches long, and the fur on its belly reaches three inches in length.

6.Mountain Lion - Puma concolor
Mountain lions (Puma concolor) once roamed most of North America, from east to west coast. Their range also extended from southern Argentina and Chile all the way to southeastern Alaska. Sadly, hunting and habitat destruction decimated their populations and confined their range to parts of western North America and a small population in Florida.

7.Cheetah - Acinonyx jubatus
The cheetah is the world's fastest land animal. Cheetahs can achieve speeds of up to 60mph but they can only maintain these bursts for short periods of time. Their sprints often last at most 10-20 seconds. Cheetahs depend on their speed to survive. The animals on which they prey - such as gazelles, young wildebeest, impala, and hares - are also fast, agile animals. To catch a meal, cheetahs must be quick.


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