Cat evolution

All modern carnivorans, including cats, evolved from miacoids, which existed from approximately 65 to 33 million years ago. Miacoid species gave rise to Proailurus (meaning "first cat"; also called "Leman's Dawn Cat"), which appeared about 30 million years ago, and is generally considered the first "true cat".[2] There were other cat-like species before Proailurus, but not within the family of the order Carnivora. Following the appearance of the dawn cat, there is little in the fossil record for 10 million years to suggest that cats would prosper. In fact, although Proailurus persisted for at least 14 million years, there are so few felid fossils towards the end of the dawn cat's reign that paleontologists refer to this as the "cat gap". The turning point for cats came about with the appearance of a new genus of felids, Pseudaelurus[2] The increase in disparity through the early Miocene occurs during a time when few feliform fossils have been found in North America. The hypercarnivorous nimravid feliforms were extinct in North America after 26 Ma and felids did not arrive in North America until the Middle Miocene with the appearance of Pseudaelurus. Pseudaelurus crossed over to North America by way of the Bering land bridge from surviving populations in Asia 18.5 million years ago. All modern-day cats are descended from Pseudaelurus. Nimravids were saber-toothed cat-like animals of the family Nimravidae. Although not "true cats" in the Felidae family, Nimravidae are considered to be a sister taxon to felids. They are basal feliforms, but their exact placement within the Carnivora group is still uncertain. Physically, Nimravidae resembled the Smilodon (which would not evolve until many millions of years later). Nimr

vidae also became extinct in North America during the "cat gap." Proailurus (meaning "first cat") was a prehistoric carnivore that lived in Europe and Asia approximately 25 million years ago in the Late Oligocene and Miocene. Fossils have been found in Mongolia, Germany, and Spain.[1] One recent phylogeny[2] places it as a basal member of the Feloidea, the superfamily that includes mongooses, civets, hyenas, and cats; but other studies suggest that it instead was a felid (a true cat).[3] Proailurus was a compact and small animal, just a little larger than the domestic cat, weighing about 20 lb (9 kg). It had a long tail, large eyes and sharp claws and teeth, with similar proportions to the modern viverrids. Its claws would have been retractable to some extent. Like the viverrids, Proailurus was at least partially arboreal.[4] Proailurus, a likely ancestor of Pseudaelurus which lived 20-10 million years ago, probably gave rise to the major felid lines, including the extinct machairodontines and the extant felines and pantherines, although the phylogeny of the cats is still not precisely known. The Nimravidae, sometimes known as false saber-toothed cats, are an extinct family of mammalian carnivores that were endemic to North America, Europe, and Asia. Not considered to belong to the true cats (family Felidae), they are closely related and classified as part of suborder Feliformia. Fossils have been dated from the Middle Eocene through the Late Miocene epochs (Bartonian through Tortonian stages, 40.47.2 mya), spanning approximately 33.2 million years.[1] Previously classified as a subfamily of Nimravidae, the barbourofelids have been recently reassigned to their own distinct family Barbourofelidae (Morlo et al. 2004).