First Record of Puma concolor (Mammalia, Felidae) in the Early-Middle Pleistocene of South America


Felidae is represented in South America by approximately ten species, belonging to three main phylogenetic lineages: the Ocelot lineage, the Puma lineage, and the Panthera lineage. Pumas (Puma concolor) and jaguarundis (Puma yagouaroundi), together with the African cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), compose the puma lineage. Paleontological knowledge about Puma concolor in North and South America is mainly restricted to the late Pleistocene and Holocene. In this contribution, we describe the first skull of Puma concolor from the early-middle Pleistocene (Ensenadan Stage/Age) of the costal cliffs of Santa Elena Creek, north of Mar del Plata city (37°52′03″S - 57°30′49″W, Buenos Aires province, Argentina). The remains (MMP 1476-M) come from stratigraphic Level 2 of the Miramar Formation and were found by one the authors (AD). The specimen described here was compared with a large number of recent and fossils individuals. The new material is represented by a partial skull and mandible with complete dental series. The anatomical analysis demonstrates that MMP 1476-M perfectly matches with the morphology of living puma specimens. The associated fauna (e.g., Protocyon scagliarum, Theriodictis platensis, Mesotherium cristatum) and paleomagnetic data support an upper Ensenadan Stage/Age. Previously reported Ensenadan pumas lack features diagnostic of Puma concolor. Thus, here we report the first unequivocal record of Puma concolor prior to late Pleistocene times in South America. Previous hypotheses of the South American origin of Puma concolor are in congruence with the fossil record of North, Central, and South America.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5


  1. Adams DB (1979) The cheetah: Native American. Science 205:1155–1158

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Barnett R, Barnes I, Phillips MJ, Martin LD, Harington CR, Leonard JA, Cooper A (2005) Evolution of the extint sabretooths and American cheetah-like cat. Curr Biol 15:589–590

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Beck T, Beecham J, Beier P, Hosfstra T, Hornocker M, Lindzey F, Logan K, Pierce B, Ross I, Shaw H, Sparrowe R, Torres S (2005) Cougar Management Guidelines. Working Group, Washington

    Google Scholar 

  4. Berman WD (1994) Los carnívoros continentales (Mammalia, Carnivora) del Cenozoico en la provincia de Buenos Aires. Doctoral Thesis, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, Universidad Nacional de La Plata

  5. Berta A (1987) The sabercat Smilodon gracilis from Florida and a discussion of its relationships (Mammalia, Felidae, Smilodontini). Bull Florida St Mus Biol Sc 31:1–63

    Google Scholar 

  6. Berta A (1995) Fossil carnivores from the Leisey Shell pits, Hillsborough County, Florida. Bull Florida Mus Nat Hist 37:463–499

    Google Scholar 

  7. Berta A, Marshall LG (1978) South American Carnivora. In: Westfal F (ed) Fossilium Catalogus I: Animalia, pars 125, vol. V-IX. W. Junk, The Hague, pp 1–48

  8. Cabrera A (1961) Los félidos vivientes de la República Argentina. Rev Mus Argentino Cienc Nat 6:160–247

    Google Scholar 

  9. Carlini AA, Zurita AE, Aguilera OA (2008) North American glyptodontines (Xenarthra, Mammalia) in the upper Pleistocene of northern South America. Paläontol Z 82:125–138

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Cartelle C, De Iuliis G (2006) Eremotherium laurillardi (Lund) (Xenarthra, Megatheriidae), the Panamerican giant ground sloth: taxonomic aspects of the ontogenetic development of skull and dentition. J Syst Palaeontol 4:199–209

  11. Cartelle C, Hartwig WC (1996) A new extinct primate among the Pleistocene megafauna of Bahia, Brazil. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 93:6405–6409

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Chimento NR, De Lucca ER (2014) El puma (Puma concolor) recoloniza el centro y el este del Ecosistema de las Pampas. Hist Nat, tercera ser, 4:13–51

    Google Scholar 

  13. Chimento NR, Derguy MR, Hemmer H (2014) Puma (Herpailurus) pumoides (Castellanos, 1958) nov. comb. Comentarios sistemáticos y registro fósil. S Correlac Geol 30: 92–134

    Google Scholar 

  14. Christiansen P (2008) Phylogeny of the great cats (Felidae: Pantherinae), and the influence of fossil taxa and missing characters. Cladistics 24:977–992

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Cione AL, Gasparini GM, Soibelzon E, Soibelzon LH, Tonni EP (2015) The Great American Biotic Interchange: A South American Perspective. SpringerBriefs in Earth System Sciences. Dordrecht, Springer

  16. Culver M, Johnson WE, Pecon-Slattery J, O’Brien SJ (2000) Genomic ancestry of the American puma (Puma concolor). J Hered 91:186–197

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Currier MJP (1983) Felis concolor. Mammal Species 200:1–7

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Eizirik E (2012) A molecular view on the evolutionary history and biogeography of Neotropical carnivores (Mammalia, Carnivora). In: Patterson BD, Costa LP (eds) Bones, Clones and Biomes. The History and Geography of Recent Neotropical Mammals. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 123–142

  19. García-Perea R (1994) The pampas cat group (genus Lynchailurus Severtzov, 1858) (Carnivora: Felidae), a systematic and biogeographic review. Am Mus Novitates 3096:1–35

    Google Scholar 

  20. García-Perea R (2002) Andean mountain cat, Oreailurus jacobita: morphological description and comparison with other felines from the altiplano. J Mammal 83:110–124

  21. Gay SW, Best TL (1996) Relationships between abiotic variables and geographic variation in skulls of pumas (Puma concolor: Mammalia, Felidae) in North and South America. Zool J Linn Soc 117:259–282

  22. Giannini NP, Segura V, Giannini MI, Flores D (2010) A quantitative approach to the cranial ontogeny of the puma. Mammal Biol 75:547–554

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Hoffstetter R (1949) Les félins du Pléistocène de l’Equateur. I. Faune actuelle et méthodes de comparaison. Travaux l’Inst Francais d’etudes andines 1:3–52

    Google Scholar 

  24. ICC (2015) International Chronostratigraphical Chart. Available online: Accessed 10 Dec 2015

  25. Isla FI, Dondas A (2001) Facies fluviales del Pleistoceno de Mar del Plata, Argentina. RAGA 56:259–267

    Google Scholar 

  26. Johnson WE, Eizirik E, Pecon-Slattery J, Murphy WJ, Antunes A, Teeling E, O’Brien SJ (2006) The late Miocene radiation of modern Felidae: a genetic assessment. Science 311:73–77

  27. Johnson WE, O’Brien SJ (1997) Phylogenetic reconstruction of the Felidae using 16S rRNA and NADH-5 mitochondrial genes. J Mol Evol 44(Suppl 1):S98–S116

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Kurtén B (1965) The Pleistocene Felidae of Florida. Bull Florida St Mus Biol Sci 9:215–273

    Google Scholar 

  29. Kurtén B (1976) Fossil puma (Mammalia: Felidae) in North America. Netherlands J Zool 26:502–534

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Logan LE (1981) The mammalian fossils of Muskox Cave, Eddy County, New Mexico: Proc Eighth Internatl Congr Speleol, v.I and II:159-160

  31. Macdonald DW, Loveridge AJ, Nowell K (2010) Dramatis personae: an introduction to wild felids. In: Macdonald DW, Loveridge AJ (eds) Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 3–58

  32. Martin LD, Gilbert BM, Adams DB (1977) A cheetah-like cat in the North American Pleistocene. Science 195:981–982

  33. McDonald HG (1990) Understanding the paleoecology of fossil vertebrates: contributions of submerged sites. In: Jaap WC (ed) Diving for Science. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences, Tenth Annual Scientific Diving Symposium, pp 273–292

  34. Meachen-Samuels J, Van Valkenburgh B (2009) Craniodental indicators of prey size preference in the Felidae. Biol J Linn Soc 96:784–799

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Mendez-Alzola R (1941) El Smilodon bonaerensis (Muñiz). Estudio osteológico y osteométrico del gran tigre fósil de la pampa comparado con otros félidos actuales y fósiles. Anal Mus Argentino Cienc Nat, 40, Paleontol 66:135–252

    Google Scholar 

  36. Morales-Mejía FM, Arroyo-Cabrales J, Polaco O (2010) Estudio comparativo de algunos elementos de las extremidades anteriores y posteriores y piezas dentales de Puma (Puma concolor) y Jaguar (Panthera onca). TIP, Rev Especializada Cienc Quím-Biol 13:73–90

    Google Scholar 

  37. Morgan GS, Seymour KL (1997) Fossil history of the panther (Puma concolor) and the cheetah-like cat (Miracinonyx inexpectatus) in Florida. Bull Florida Mus Nat Hist 40:177–219

    Google Scholar 

  38. Nowell K, Jackson P (1996) Wild Cats. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, Cambridge

  39. Parodi R (1930) Contribución a la osteología de los Grandes felinos vivientes de la Argentina. Physis 10:74–84

    Google Scholar 

  40. Pecon Slattery JO, Brien SJ (1998) Patterns of Y and X chromosome DNA sequence divergence during the Felidae radiation. Genetics 148:1245–1255

    PubMed  PubMed Central  CAS  Google Scholar 

  41. Prevosti FJ (2006) New materials of Pleistocene cats (Carnivora, Felidae) from southern South America, with comments on biogeography and the fossil record. Geobios 39:679–694

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Prevosti FJ, Dondas A, Isla FI (2004) Revisión del registro de Theriodictis Mercerat, 1891 (Carnivora, Canidae) y descripción de un nuevo ejemplar de Theriodictis platensis Mercerat, 1891 del Pleistoceno de la provincia de Buenos Aires (Argentina). Ameghiniana 41:245–250

    Google Scholar 

  43. Prevosti FJ, Martin FM (2013) Paleoecology of the mammalian predator guild of southern Patagonia during the latest Pleistocene: ecomorphology, stable isotopes, and taphonomy. Quaternary Internatl 305:74–84

  44. Prevosti FJ, Zurita AE, Carlini AA (2005) Biostratigraphy, systematics, and paleoecology of Protocyon Giebel, 1855 (Carnivora, Canidae) in South America. J S Am Earth Sci 20:5–12

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Puckette WL (1975) An occurrence of the puma, Felis concolor, from Svendsen cave, Marion County, Arkansas. Arkansas Acad Sci Proc 29:52–53

    Google Scholar 

  46. Quintana C (1994) Notas para una actualizacion del conocimiento de la fauna de la "Formacion" San Andres (Pleistoceno Inferior), provincia de Buenos Aires. Ameghiniana 31:331–332

    Google Scholar 

  47. Salles LO (1992) Felid phylogenetics: extant taxa and skull morphology (Felidae, Aeluroidea). Am Mus Novitates 3047:1–67

  48. Scillato-Yané G, Carlini AA, Tonni EP, Noriega JI (2005) Paleobiogeography of the late Pleistocene pampatheres of South America. J S Am Earth Sci 20:131–138

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Seymour KL (1999) Taxonomy, morphology, paleontology and phylogeny of the South American small cats (Mammalia: Felidae). Thesis (Unpublished), University of Toronto

  50. Shockey BJ, Salas-Gismondi R, Baby P, Guyot J-L, Baltazar MC, Huamán L, Clack A, Stucchi M, Pujos F, Emerson JM, Flynn JJ (2009) New Pleistocene cave faunas of the Andes of central Perú: radiocarbon ages and the survival of low latitude, Pleistocene DNA. Palaeontol Electron 12:1–15

  51. Simpson GG (1941) Large Pleistocene felines of North America. Am Mus Novitates 1136:1–27

    Google Scholar 

  52. Soibelzon E, Gasparini GM, Zurita AE, Soibelzon LH (2008) Análisis faunístico de vertebrados de las “toscas del Río de la Plata” (Buenos Aires, Argentina): un yacimiento paleontológico en desaparición. Rev Mus Argentino Cienc Nat ns 10:291–308

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Soibelzon LH, Pomi LH, Tonni EP, Rodriguez S, Dondas A (2009a) First report of a South American short-faced bears’ den (Arctotherium angustidens): palaeobiological and palaeoecological implications. Alcheringa 33:211–222

  54. Soibelzon LH, Prevosti F (2007) Los carnívoros (Carnivora, Mammalia) terrestres del Cuaternario de América del Sur. In: Pons GX, Vicens D (eds) Geomorphologia Litoral i Quaternari. Homenatge a D. Joan Cuerda Barceló. Monografies de la Societat d’História Natural de les Balears Special Volume 14, Palma de Mallorca, pp 49–68

  55. Soibelzon E, Prevosti FJ, Bidegain JC, Rico Y, Verzi DH, Tonni EP (2009b) Correlation of late Cenozoic sequences of southeastern Buenos Aires province: biostratigraphy and magnetostratigraphy. Quaternary Internatl 210:51–56

  56. Sunquist ME, Sunquist F (2002) Wild Cats of the World. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London

  57. Thompson DJ, Fecske DM, Jenks JA, Jarding AR (2009) Food habits of recolonizing cougars in the Dakotas: prey obtained from prairie and agricultural habitats. Am Midl Nat 161:69–75

  58. Ubilla M (2004) Mammalian biostratigraphy of Pleistocene fluvial deposits in northern Uruguay, South America. Proc Geologists Assoc 115:347–357

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Ubilla M, Perea D (1999) Quaternary vertebrates of Uruguay: a biostratigraphic, biogeographic and climatic overview. Quaternary S Am Antarct Penins 12:75–90

  60. Ubilla M, Perea D, Aguilar CC, Lorenzo N (2004) Late Pleistocene vertebrates from northern Uruguay: Tools for biostratigraphic, climatic and environmental reconstruction. Quaternary Internatl 114:129–142

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Van Valkenburgh B, Grady F, Kurtén B (1990) The Plio-Pleistocene cheetah-like cat Miracinonyx inexpectatus of North America. J Vertebr Paleontol 10:434–454

  62. Van Valkenburgh B, Hertel F (1993) Tough times at La Brea: tooth breakage in large carnivores of the late Pleistocene. Science 261:456–459

  63. Verde M, Ubilla M (2002) Mammalian carnivore coprolites from the Sopas Formation (upper Pleistocene, Lujanian Stage), Uruguay. Ichnos 9:77–80

  64. Young SP, Goldman EA (1946) The Puma - Mysterious American Cat. Wildlife Management Institute, Washington, D.C.

  65. Webb SD, Perrigo SC (1984) Late Cenozoic vertebrates from Honduras and El Salvador. J Vertebr Paleontol 4:237–254

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Werdelin L (1985) Small Pleistocene felines of North America. J Vertebr Paleontol 5:194–210

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Wozencraft WC (2005) Order Carnivora. In: Wilson DE, Reeder DM (eds) Mammals Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, 3rd edn. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, pp. 532–628

  68. Zurita AE, Carlini AA, Gillette D, Sánchez R (2011) Late Pliocene Glyptodontinae (Xenarthra, Cingulata, Glyptodontidae) of South and North America: morphology and paleobiogeographical implications in the GABI. J S Am Earth Sci 31:178–185

Download references


We thank F. Agnolin for his help with the English version of this work. We especially thank S. Bogan (Fundación de Historia Natural “Félix de Azara,” Buenos Aires, Argentina), D. Flores, S. Lucero, G. Cassini, P. Teta (Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia,” Buenos Aires, Argentina), Itatí Olivares and Diego Verzi (División Mastozoología, Museo de La Plata, La Plata, Argentina), Marcelo Reguero and Martin de los Reyes (División Paleontología Vertebrados, Museo de La Plata, La Plata, Argentina) for their help during the revision of the collections under their care. Thanks also to Adriel R. Gentil, Federico Brison Egli, Julia S. D’Angelo, Gabriel L. Lio, Matias Motta, Sebastian Rozadilla, Mauro Aranciaga Rolando, and Gonzalo Muñoz for their comments and observations during the development of present contribution. This work is dedicated to the memory of Alejandro Dondas, a distinguished geologist and paleontologist, who discovered the material studied here, and who passed away during the elaboration of this work.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Nicolás R. Chimento.

Additional information

Data availability

All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article.

This work is dedicated to the memory of Alejandro Dondas, who passed away during the elaboration of this work.

Electronic supplementary material


(DOC 25 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Chimento, N.R., Dondas, A. First Record of Puma concolor (Mammalia, Felidae) in the Early-Middle Pleistocene of South America. J Mammal Evol 25, 381–389 (2018).

Download citation


  • Puma lineage
  • GABI
  • Ensenadan stage/age
  • South America
  • North America