Journal of Mammalian Evolution

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 155–179 | Cite as

Evolutionary convergence of primitive sabertooth craniomandibular morphology: the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) and Paramachairodus ogygia compared

  • Per ChristiansenEmail author


The sabertoothed felids were among the most unusual predators in the late Tertiary ecosystems, and the sabertooth morphology is regarded as being absent from the modern ecosystems. In recent years, the primitive Paramachairodus has become well known and has yielded much valuable information on the primitive skull morphology among sabercats, providing the first evidence-based scenarios for the evolution of skull morphology in later sabercats. However, comparison of craniomandibular morphology of the extant clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa and Paramachairodus reveals numerous similarities and subsequent divergence from other extant great cats. In several key aspects, the clouded leopard has approached a primitive sabercat craniomandibular morphology and has diverged markedly from its sister group, the Panthera lineage. A primitive sabertooth condition arose six times in the Tertiary period, not five as is traditionally advocated. The clouded leopard appears to be a useful model for understanding primitive sabercat morphology and could shed important light on sabercat evolution. The unusual nature of the clouded leopard implies that increased efforts should be spent on insuring the continuing survival of this rare and endangered species.


Sabertoothed felids Skull morphology Paramachairodus Clouded leopard Convergent evolution 



I am indebted to John Harris and Christopher Shaw at the Los Angeles County Museum for information on Smilodon fatalis, Pamela Owen from the Texas Memorial Museum for information on Homotherium serum, Arne Ziems at the Museum of Natural History in Basel, Daphne Hills at the Natural History Museum in London, Christine Argot and Claire Sagne at the Museum national d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, Hendrik Turni and Irene Mann at the Department of Zoology at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin. I am particularly grateful to Manuel Salesa and Mauricio Antón from the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid for great hospitability during my visit and for inspiring conversations on sabercats.

Supplementary material

10914_2007_9069_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (59 kb)
ESM Table 1 (114 KB pdf)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of VertebratesZoological MuseumCopenhagen ØDenmark

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