Big cat family tree

The Cat (felidae) family tree

The Cats form an incredibly successful family. It is true that they are missing from the polar regions, and Australasia, but everywhere that they reached they have been successful, and in many ecosystems they are the undisputed kings

Panthera Family

 This family split from hte Felid ancestor 10.8 million years ago. There have been some debate as to whether the two species of clouded leopards should be included in Panthera. On the circular mammal tree (which we are using – look in the species watch tab, or click here)

They are generally included in a subgenus Panthera_Neofilis


Bay cat Familiy

Bay cat ancestor split 9.4 milion years ago

Caracal Family

Caracal Ancestor split 8.5 million years ago

Ocelot Family

Ocelot Ancestor 2.9 million years ago

Lynx Family

Lynx Ancestor 3.2 million years ago

Puma Family

Puma ancestor 4.9 million years ago

Leopard cat Family

Leopard cat Ancestor 5.9 million year ago

Domestic cat Family

Domestic cat Ancestor

Cougar (Puma, mountain-lion, Catamount even Panther)

A mountain-lion photographed in Glacier national park, by the national parks service

Cougar, Puma or mountain-lion

This cat is a large cat that is native to much of North and South America, second only to the Jaguar.

For most classifications, the cougar misses out on being a big cat, as it does not have the vocal structure to roar, as the others do.

It is largely solitary, and is generally a nocturnal or crepuscular cat (that is active at night or in the early morning and late evening). They have been persecuted since the colonization of north America by the Europeans, which has lead to patchy coverage. The Eastern Cougar is extinct, except for a sub-population called the Florida Panther which is isolated from any other Cougars. It is in better state in the west of the USA. In Southern and central America, it is still found in every country. In fact, it holds a classification of being the most widespread mammal to be found in the Western hemisphere.

It is a close relative of the Cheetah, which is believed to have initially evolved in the USA before migrating into Asia and Africa. The only animal which shares the same clade is the jaguarundi is the cougar, though the larger family called a Lineage and does include the cheetah

aaa Pantanal Biosphere Reserve which includes Chapada dos Guimarães, Serra da Bodoquena, Pantanal Matogrossense, and Emas national parks

Pantanal Biosphere reserve, including Chapada dos Guimarães, Serra da Bodoquena, Pantanal Matogrossense, and Emas national parks.

Pantanal jaguar, credit: Jan Fleschmann

Pantanal Biosphere reserve covers 725 square miles of land at the entrance of the Pantanal, and should we wish to continue to protect the Pantanal we also need to protect its head waters.

However, this area also has an essential conservation status of its own, protecting a wide range of wildlife within its borders. mammals found here include troupes of monkeys, giant anteaters, tapirs, Capybaras, Armadillos, wild dogs, maned wolves, foxes, herds of deer, cougar, and ocelots. There are also over 350 bird species which include Aplomado falcons, burrowing owls, Yellow-faced parrots and maccaws.

Termite mounds litter the landscape and stand as much as 2m high. These are used by a variety of other wildlife. In particular, the larve of the Cumpinzeiro which is a luminescent beetle. If you are lucky, at night, you might get to witness the strange site of vast numbers of these beetles, emerging after rains. They light up the mounds transforming them into strange looking christmas trees.

aaa Sian ka’an biosphere reserve, Monarch butterfly migration Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Sian ka'an biosphere reserve, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico



Bottlenose dolphin, Sea green turtle, Caribbean manatee, Central American Tapir, Forest condor or real condor, Jaguar, Howling monkey, Ocelote in Sian Ka’an, Western manatees can all be found in this reserve. 


The reserve is made up of tropical forests, mangroves, marshes and a large area of ocean.  The reserve’s name can be translated as gate of heaven. 


The reserve covers over 5000 Square km, Part of which is land and the rest is in the coral sea and includes a large area of coral reef.


This is an 8 minute video of someone exploring some of this reserve


Jaguars are the only big cat not found on the supercontinent. Dominating much of South America, and before the arrival of humans much of Southern North America

photo credit MarcusObal


Jaguars are the only big cat that is found in the Americas. Superficially looking like a Leopard, it is actually no more closely related to a Leopard, than a Lion or Tiger.

Once (as late as the year 1900) ranging from Southern Argentina- north through the rest of South America, and throughout Mexico and the Southern United states (some 19 million square km) its current range is greatly reduced, see the map below.

A map of Jaguar range. Red is the current range, pink is the range back in 1900. As you can see, it only leaves the Jaguar as the king of the Amazon

Wonderful swimmers, fantastic hunters and strong cats, they were undisputed as the apex or one of the apex predators in every environment in which they lived.

They are known to regularly take livestock where it is possible. Possibly as a result of having only millennia rather than the eons that native animals have, they have not learnt to fear humans and keep their distance as healthy populations of lion leopard and tiger do.

However, there is also a huge draw to see this animal in its native habitat. The easiest way to see Jaguar, is usually from a boat on a river.

As with other species on this site, I hope to add many destinations over the next few years. Below these links will be a list of all articles on Jaguars,  and we  will add all the destinations and links we have, as we make them below the news section.

From the great Pantanal – Brazil’s area of wetland, to a number of reserves across the amazon rainforest (it is estimated that 57,000 Jaguars still survive in the fragments of the Amazon rainforest that still stand.  On top of this, there is still significant jaguar habitat in Mexico and central America. One of these was set up by the late great Alan Rabinowitz, who fought right up to hist death for protecting places like Cookscomb basin reserve in Belize.

As with many other wildlife around the world, travel to see these animals is essential, if we are to give a financial incentive to those who live and work in the country. Get in touch if you work in conservation of this incredible animal, or tourism. Link is at the top of the main page (or click here)



Returning Jaguars to the USA

While few animals have been completely exterminated from north America in the last 300 years there are a few on the brink.

One such animal is the Jaguar.

Could Southern Arizona become a place for ecotourism in the future?

The last known Jaguar roams the Rocky lands of Southern Arizona and is called Sombra. The last known female was shot 60 years ago this year. Conservationists are calling for Jaguars to be reintroduced into the Gila national forest, a 3 million acre wilderness in New Mexico, along with protection for millions more acres which Sombra currently roams.

Continue reading “Returning Jaguars to the USA”

Should Jaguars have a place in the ecosystems of the continental north America?

Wild Jaguars are a native resident of the USA. Once roaming as far north as the Grand canyon, they roamed over around 1/3 of its lands. It is not a natural migration therefore that has therefore meant that Jaguars are extremely rare in the USA.

Currently there are about 173,000 Jaguars living in the wild, meaning that taken as a whole, the Jaguar is far away the safest of the big cats (Lions who come in second, have a population of around 20,000). However, if you look at the part of the Jaguar population that lives in north America, their position becomes far more precarious.

Currently, it is thought that Mexico contains a wild jaguar population of about 4800.

A map of current considered range of Jaguars in Mexico, with records over the last 20 years.
Credit: Ceballos G et al 2021
Continue reading “Should Jaguars have a place in the ecosystems of the continental north America?”

A jaguar refuge in Mexico is under threat from deforestation and expansion of tourist projects

It is essential that tourists do not damage the places that they visit! I would think that this is obvious, but this is something that often does not occur to the majority of people, to do a quick search and work out if their visit will damage the area.

Beautiful reserve in Northern Mexico, where Jaguars and other animals survive and thrive
Continue reading “A jaguar refuge in Mexico is under threat from deforestation and expansion of tourist projects”

Species watch

Species watch

All species are important, often reintroductions have failed because a small unnoticed animal was missed. Over time, we will amass pages for as many species as possible. However, just as important is  seeing how species are closely related. As such as well as looking at species from a specific ecosystem or family, we will also include family trees of many of the families on earth. It should be noted, that this is to help you find wildlife you wish to see, so will never link to every species. In either way, these links to these will be placed at the top.

Original paper - OrthoMaM: A database of orthologous genomic markers for placental mammal phylogenetics. Ranwez V., Delsuc F., Ranwez S., Belkhir K., Tilak M. & Douzery E. J. P. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 2007, 7 : 241.

Reintroducing Jaguars to the south west of the USA?

It might be a shock to many, but Jaguars were once native to the USA. What’s more despite humans biggest efforts, the eradication was not completely successful. The third largest big cat, after Tiger and Lion, was persecuted along with many other native fauna after Europeans started to settle in the USA.

A news report from the last decade, talking about what is thought to have been the last Arizona Jaguar

Continue reading “Reintroducing Jaguars to the south west of the USA?”

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