In 2004, scientists unearthed evidence of the oldest tiger ever discovered. Found in northwestern China, the skull of the extinct, jaguar-sized tiger dates back 2.16 to 2.55 million years.
This ancient cat, also known as Panthera zdanskyi, had large fangs and a long nose. Its prey included deer, pigs, and other large animals.
The skull found by scientists suggests the extinct species looked like modern tigers in many ways except for size. That is, the Panthera zdanskyi was much smaller than a modern tiger, which can grow up to 13 feet long and weigh 660 pounds. Researchers suggest that, as tigers’ prey increased in size over time tigers themselves also grew until they reached their modern-day size.
“It will be interesting to see whether further fossil big cats are discovered in China and elsewhere, which [could] expand our knowledge of the distribution of this species and fill in more gaps in the tiger’s fossil history,” said Andrew Kitchener, a vertebrate biology researcher.
"Confirming a more precise dating of Panthera zdanskyi would also be invaluable for understanding its position in the tiger’s evolutionary timescale,” Kitchener added.
[Source: Live Science]