Big cats that roar are part of the genus Panthera and, evolutionarily speaking, are more closely related to each other than to other cats, as they have closer ancestors in common in a speciation history.
Panthers are represented by the following animals:
– Lion ( Panthera leo ), found in Europe, Asia and Africa;
– Jaguar ( Panthera onca ), distributed in the warm and temperate regions of the continent;
– Leopard ( Panthera pardus ), found in Africa and Asia;
– Snow leopard ( Panthera uncia ), which inhabits the high altitudes of central Asia;
– Tiger ( Panthera tigris ), inhabitant of central Asia.
Some scholars believe that felines migrate due to their territorial behavior and this may justify the current distribution.
Some theories seek to explain these relationships between individuals of the genus from the distribution pattern over time, these being addressed by the science called Biogeography.
The so-called post-evolutionary dispersionist theory explains the distribution of this genus considering that the ancestral species of these animals probably originated in Asia – the region where the oldest fossil of a panther was found – and dispersed through three routes.
The first would be a route to Africa, probably through the region where the Suez Canal was built, on an expanse of land linking Africa and Asia. The second would be towards North America, via the Bering Strait, at a time when the oceans were at very low levels. The third and last route would consist of their dispersion to South America, through the Isthmus of Panama, formed 3 million years ago, during the Pliocene.
The most accepted, the vicarious theory, expresses that geographic barriers and extinction and dispersion events were able to confer, over time, the diversity and distribution pattern as we see today.
Comparing the phylogeny of these species with their respective distributions, we can see that there is a very strong relationship between them, which justifies that such a theory possibly describes with better precision what happened to have these patterns.