Oldest Tiger Skull Unearthed

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I was just reading the National Geographic’s Daily News and came across this article about the unearthing of a 2.5-million-year-old skull from a new species (Panthera zdanskyi) of tiger. What was interesting is that the skull of modern tigers is really not that different showing that the anatomy of tiger skulls have been ideal for the hunting needs of these animals for millions of years. That brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”

Comments

  1. #1 starskeptic
    October 20, 2011

    …of course the trunk didn’t get fossilized – so we’ll never really know just how different they were;)

  2. #2 AZSci
    October 28, 2011

    “By plugging measurements and images of the skull into a database of fossilized and modern-day specimens, the study authors were able to place the new species—named Panthera zdanskyi—alongside tigers in the big cat family tree.” That is a depressingly vague and (hopefully!) misleading statement about how paleontologists do science! Databases may be helpful, but they do not do the thinking!

    But then I read the article, and was astounded by the use of “robust” without definition over and over again – it can mean a lot of different things! Also, describing a fossilized (i.e., made of rock) skull as “heavy” seems unhelpful at best!

    Maybe I’m just in a cranky mood today (dissertation writing will do that), and the flying spaghetti monster knows my field is plenty guilty of making stories up on little evidence. I was just initially surprised by the unsophisticated summary in NatGeo, but then more surprised by the not so impressive looking study in PLoS. Okay, fine, I’m just grumpy.

  3. #3 Megan Howard 15040692
    South Africa
    April 6, 2015

    What an interesting find. With a similar jaw structure and dentition of the modern tiger and one believed to have lived 2.5 million years ago, scientists can come to the understanding that tigers have not had major evolutionary changes over the last few million years. Many questions arise as to how and why the tiger species and remained virtually unchanged for so long, however i agree with “starskeptic” . Although the skull is an extremely strong point to use as evidence there is insufficient fossils from 2.5 million years ago to support the claim that the physical structure of Tigers have not changed in this time period. In order to back this hypothesis , one would have to analyse more samples and the full body of a tiger from around the time of 2.5 million years ago yet a fossil found in China of a tiger indicates that the tiger from about 2 million years ago is much smaller than our modern tigers. (http://www.tigers-world.com/tiger-evolution/) . This goes to prove that tigers have had large phenotypic changes over the last few million years. This is understandable as there have been a number of changes that the tiger would have to overcome to survive. Although the bodily shape and size varied, a similar jaw and teeth structure indicates that tigers have had little change in their diet. u1504092

  4. #4 Megan Howard 15040692
    South Africa
    April 6, 2015

    What an interesting find. With a similar jaw structure and dentition of the modern tiger and one believed to have lived 2.5 million years ago, scientists can come to the understanding that tigers have not had major evolutionary changes over the last few million years. Many questions arise as to how and why the tiger species has remained virtually unchanged for so long, however i agree with “starskeptic” . Although the skull is an extremely strong point to use as evidence there is insufficient fossils from 2.5 million years ago to support the claim that the physical structure of Tigers have not changed in this time period. In order to back this hypothesis , one would have to analyse more samples and the full body of a tiger from around the time of 2.5 million years ago. In fact a fossil found in China of a tiger indicates that the tiger from about 2 million years ago is much smaller than our modern tigers. (http://www.tigers-world.com/tiger-evolution/) . This goes to prove that tigers have had large phenotypic changes over the last few million years. This is understandable as there have been a number of changes that the tiger would have to overcome to survive. Although the bodily shape and size varied, a similar jaw and teeth structure indicates that tigers have had little change in their diet. u15040692