Late Pleistocene and Holocene development of the felid fauna (Felidae) of Europe: a review


Robert S. Sommer, Department of General and Systematic Zoology, Institute of Biosciences, University of Rostock, Universitätsplatz 2, Rostock 18055, Germany. Tel: +0049-381-4986263;
Fax: +0049-381-4986262


In the fossil deposits of the Late Pleistocene (c. 115 000–11 500 years ago), five felid species are recorded in Europe: the wildcat Felis silvestris, Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx, Iberian lynx Lynx pardinus, leopard Panthera pardus and cave lion Panthera leo spelaea. In the Holocene, Europe was colonized by F. silvestris, L. lynx and L. pardinus as well as the lion Panthera leo. The status of P. pardus in post-glacial Europe is unknown. So far, only sparse records indicate that P. pardus survived into the early Holocene. During the Late Glacial, both L. lynx and L. pardinus occurred on the Iberian Peninsula. However, from the Holocene, only the Iberian lynx is recorded in this region. There are subfossil records that indicate that L. pardinus also occurred in central and western France until c. 3000 years ago. Surprisingly, with reservations on the determination of the bones (by J. Altuna), both lions and cave lions seem to be recorded in the Iberian Peninsula in the Late Glacial. There are published records of the lion P. leo in the northern Iberian Peninsula from the early Holocene. However, its presence in Europe on the basis of subfossil records was proven initially from the Atlantic period. In Ponto-Mediterranean regions of Europe, the lion is recorded from the Atlantic to the younger sub-Atlantic.