The Cat family (Felidae) arose from primitive carnivores in Europe about 30 million years ago, in the Oligocene. Common characteristics include extraordinarily acute hearing, eyesight adapted for night vision, a sensitive nose, whiskers, long canine teeth for seizing, large car-nassial teeth for tearing, a spotted or striped coat, flexible vertebrae, and retractile claws (except for the cheetah).
The largest living cat is the male Tiger (Pan-thera tigris), which in Siberia attains an average length of 10 feet 4 inches from nose to tail tip.
Claims of tigers up to 13 feet or longer are sometimes based on stretched skins or faulty measurements. Weights up to 700 pounds have been reported.
Felid taxonomy remains somewhat controversial. Some authorities put modern cats into three groups: the Subfamily Pantherinae, incorporating leopards, jaguars, lions, tigers, lynxes, and bobcats; the Subfamily Felinae, which includes everything in the genus Felis; and an undetermined category for the cheetah. Others place all living cats into the Subfamily Felinae.
Genetic variations in coat coloration have been one reason why cat classification has been problematic. The general purpose for spots, stripes, and splotches on the coat is to provide camouflage and make it more difficult for the animal to be identified when it is stalking its prey. Each species has a basic set of markings, and individual cats often sport a unique pattern. Significant variations in coat pigmentation (albino, melanistic, chinchilla, agouti, and so on) are produced by the mutant alleles of six major genes. If enough variants occur in an isolated population to allow it to interbreed successfully and preserve those characteristics, it becomes a subspecies.
The occurrence of melanism (black pigment) in some mystery cats is perplexing. Melanism is the commonest coat variation in wild cats and occurs in thirteen different species. Black leopards are most often found in the forested part of their range in tropical Asia and less often in Africa. At one time, they were considered a distinct species, but both normal and melanistic individuals can be found in the same litter. The American puma exhibits very little tendency toward melanism, making reports of black East ern Pumas especially anomalous.
Of the sixty-two mystery cats in this list, seventeen probably represent little-known color morphs of known species, such as the Blue Tiger and the King Cheetah. Hybridization between various cat species in the wild is rare but possible under certain circumstances in areas where two species overlap. Eight cat cryp-tids may represent recurring hybrids, such as the Kellas Cat and the Tnicum cat Ten others, such as the bornean Tiger and the Arizona
Jaguar are unverified extensions of the distribution of known species.
Twelve cats in the list may be undescribed species new to science; these include the spotted Lion and the Nayarit Ruffed Cat. Five may represent surviving species known from fossils, especially the saber-toothed cats Machairodus and Smilodon (among them the Tigre de Montagne, WAter Lion, and WAter Tiger). Four versions of Alien Big Cats are included; their origins are undoubtedly multi-causal, but some have been tempted to think a new species is involved.
Four on the list do not seem to be cats at all, while the winged catis apparently an extreme form of a disease afflicting domestic cats.
Black Lion; Buffalo Lion; Dark Leopard; King Cheetah; Kitanga; Malagasy Lion; Mngwa; Qattara Cheetah; Spotted Lion; Tigre de Montagne; WAter Lion; Wobo Woolly Cheetah
Black Tger Blue Tger; Bornean Tger; Caspian TIger; Caucasian Black Cat; Cigau; Doglas; Harimau Jalur Sat-Kalauk; Seah Melang Pàa; Shing Mun Tger Stripeless Tiger; Sundanese Horned Cat; Yam am aya
Central and South America Anomalous Jaguar; Columbus's Ape-Faced Cat; Jaguareté; Mita; Onça-Canguçù; Peruvian Jungle Lion; Peruvian Jungle Wildcat; Rainbow Tger ShiashiaYawá; SiemeLs Mystery Cat; Speckled Jaguar; Striped Jaguar; Tapir Tiger; WAracabra Tiger; WAter Tiger; Yana Puma
Alien Big Cat; Britsh Big Cat; Bulgarian Lynx; Cait Sith; Île Du Levant Wildcat; Irish Wildcat; Isturitz Scimitar Cat; Kellas Cat
Arizona Jaguar; Cuitlamiztli; Eastern Puma; Maned American Lion; Nayarit Ruffed Cat; Onza; Ozark Howler; Sanier;
Various Winged Cat
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