Tetrapod Zoology

i-5bc42becc30c7e71aa8e8c5fc0f61647-Cave lion Carl Buell (c).jpg

The third Big Cats in Britain (BCiB) conference is almost upon us: it happens from 7th-9th March 2008 at Tropiquaria (Watchet, Somerset). This time round, I’m speaking, and most of my research time is currently being eaten up as I prepare for the meeting (I’m also speaking in the first week of March on ‘Britain’s changing herpetofauna’ for the Southampton Natural History Society… haven’t really started preparing that talk yet). My talk is titled ‘The deep time history of Britain’s felid fauna’ and is essentially a palaeontological/archaeological view of British cats. You could argue that this perspective is irrelevant to the British big cat phenomenon – on the other hand, it seems to me to be a useful area to cover, especially given that people are increasingly interested in what role cats could or do play in British ecology. Well, we need a historical perspective before we can evaluate that further [adjacent image shows a Cave lion Panthera leo spelaea to scale with a person. Image from here, Carl Buell].

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I’m not just covering vague stuff like ‘oooh, we used to have lions in Trafalgar Square’, but a lot of material that I don’t expect people have heard before: the proposed late survival in Britain of Homotherium, the history of jaguars and pumas in the Old World, the phylogeography and life appearance of European leopards, the survival of lynxes in Britain until the 7th century or later, the proposed presence of African wildcats in Ireland, and more. I will publish the contents of the talk here at Tet Zoo early in March [adjacent image shows one of my slides]. Anyway, this partly explains the continuing lack of long articles here, sorry about that. To those particularly interested in the whole British big cats thing, do consider coming along to the conference if you can make it: for more information visit the BCiB page here. The meeting opens with a press conference and public debate (!). You can pay on the door (only 10 I think). As always, you can help support my attendance at the conference by throwing money in my direction – thanks to those who have provided much-needed support in the past!

Am being kept busy with lots of other stuff as well – was in London and Oxford last week for assorted reasons, and as I’m sure you know a lot has been happening as goes aetogate. I refer you to my excellent colleagues Laelaps, Dinochick and Janet Stemwedel.

UPDATE: mandatory reading from The Ethical Palaeontologist here.

Comments

  1. #1 Brian
    February 25, 2008

    Well, Darren, all of this sounds really interesting and I’m sure all your readers will understand that this will have priority over your blogging. Since I (and many other readers) probably won’t be present at the lecture but would like to know about its contents, I wonder if there is any way for you to bring the talk to your blog later?

  2. #2 David Marjanovi?
    February 25, 2008

    “Uphrykina” (in the slide) looks weird as a spelling…

    I wonder if there is any way for you to bring the talk to your blog later?

    I quote from just underneath the slide:

    I will publish the contents of the talk here at Tet Zoo early in March [adjacent image shows one of my slides].

  3. #3 Jerzy
    February 25, 2008

    1. Molecular phylogeny of surprising lots of creatures (including pumas, jaguars, lions and bison) shows genetic bottlenecks several 10,000 y ago. Unless this is some artifact, perhaps that every phylogenetic tree eventually roots somewhere…

    Maybe these dates are in fact, the same time, and several 10,000ya there was one Old Pleistocene Doomsday Event which decimated animal populations?

    Going deeper into speculations – could it be Toba volcano explosion? Or humans, together with wiping out extinct megafauna, also almost wiped out these species which survived?

    2. Guys, should somebody buy a cage leopard and release it for you to track?

  4. #4 Dave Hughes
    February 25, 2008

    “Going deeper into speculations – could it be Toba volcano explosion? Or humans, together with wiping out extinct megafauna, also almost wiped out these species which survived?”

    These 10,000-year old genetic bottlenecks that keep being found are very interesting, but don’t blame Toba – that eruption happened approx. 74,000 years ago. Its effects also seem to have been surprisingly limited. There’s a recent paper by Louys (2007, Quaternary Science Reviews 26: 3108-3117) showing that very few large-mammal extinctions in SE Asia can be shown to coincide with the eruption, even in areas like Java and Sumatra that you’d think would have been completely devastated. It looks as though the idea of Toba as a world-shattering apocalypse doesn’t really hold up.
    Personally I’d go for human hunting and habitat disturbance as the cause of virtually all the end-Pleistocene extinctions and range contractions, but I suspect that’s an argument for another day!

  5. #5 David Marjanovi?
    February 25, 2008

    but don’t blame Toba – that eruption happened approx. 74,000 years ago.

    Isn’t that supposed to be the age of the human bottleneck?

  6. #6 Darren Naish
    February 25, 2008

    “Uphrykina” (in the slide) looks weird as a spelling…

    That’s because I’m a dumbass and got it wrong. It should be…

    Uphyrkina, O., Johnson, W. E., Quigley, H., Miquelle, D., Marker, L., Bush, M. & O’Brien, S. J. 2001. Phylogenetics, genome diversity and origin of modern leopard, Panthera pardus. Molecular Ecology 10, 2617-2633.

    I’m sure I would have spotted this 🙂

  7. #7 Wango Boingmeister
    February 25, 2008

    Oh – ‘spotted’. Ha ha!

  8. #8 Tengu
    February 26, 2008

    Ill see what I can do, Darren.

  9. #9 Mark Lees
    February 26, 2008

    Darren,

    Will you be covering anything on Viretailurus schaubi? There seems to be divided opinion as to whether it is close to (or even in) Panthera, or is close to the puma. Given the provenance (either lower Pleistocene or upper Pliocene, according to which source you accept, of France) it seems at least plausible it too may have occurred in Britain.

    Glad to see you’ve reverted to your usually type of posting – I know sex sells but the last one (or at least some of the comments following it) wouldn’t go through the web content filters at work!

  10. #10 David Marjanovi?
    February 26, 2008

    That’s because I’m a dumbass and got it wrong. It should be…

    Uphyrkina

    That looks just as wrong… I really don’t expect a ph in this kind of name. ~:-| I’ll try to check; the journal ought to be online in some form.

  11. #11 Darren Naish
    February 26, 2008

    Hi Mark

    Viretailurus schaubi has most recently been argued to be synonymous with Panthera pardoides, and according to Hemmer et al. (2004), Panthera pardoides is a species of Puma, meaning that both ‘Schaub’s panther’ and ‘Owen’s panther’ are called Puma pardoides, the Old World puma. This species has a record in the Pliocene and Early and Middle Pleistocene of Africa, Europe and Mongolia: it is presumed to have crossed the Bering land bridge during the Middle Pleistocene to give rise to P. concolor.

    Refs – –

    Hemmer, H., Kahlike, R.-D. & Vekua, A. K. 2004. The Old World puma Puma pardoides (Owen, 1846) (Carnivora: Felidae) in the Lower Villafranchian (Upper Pliocene) of Kvabebi (East Georgia, Transcaucasia) and its evolutionary and biogeographical significance. Neues Jahrbuch fur Geologie und Palaontologie, Abhandlungen 233, 197-233.

  12. #12 neil
    February 26, 2008

    I remember you mentioning that conference. Its a shame its all the way in Somerset, bit of a trek for me!

    And the buisness with Lucas is going way beyond silly….

  13. #13 Nick Pharris
    February 27, 2008

    [Puma pardoides] is presumed to have crossed the Bering land bridge during the Middle Pleistocene to give rise to P. concolor.

    Wouldn’t it be more parsimonious to hypothesize that the common ancestor of Puma, Miracinonyx, and Herpailurus lived in the Americas and that P. pardoides migrated to the Old World? (I’d go look up the paper myself, but the Institute only seems to have Neues Jahrbuch from 2007 on.)

  14. #14 Darren Naish
    February 27, 2008

    Barnett et al. (2005) argued that the jaguarundi-puma clade invaded the Americas from Old World ancestors, in part because true cheetahs are the sister-taxon to the jaguarundi-puma clade. But you’re right: in the jaguarundi-puma clade there are three New World taxa versus one Old World one. We can come back to this in a couple of weeks: meanwhile, have you seen Cameron’s article?

    Ref – –

    Barnett, R., Barnes, I., Phillips, M. J., Martin, L. D., Harington, C. R., Leonard, J. A. & Cooper, A. 2005. Evolution of the extinct sabretoths and the American cheetah-like cat. Current Biology 15, 589-590.

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