This probably won’t be a regular blog feature, but I do need to somehow work into an answer to the question that some readers probably puzzle about–why cats and volcanoes?
There is much more than that to Earth, after all.
Some volcanoes and some cats do roar, but it more likely has to do with my studying cat evolution, though I can’t put it into words just yet. For now, let’s just say that volcanoes represent geological activity that shapes the landscape over deep time, while cats are apex predators that can shape habitats and even ecosystems.
Also, a major ignimbrite “flare-up” was going on in North America when the first known cat-like predators bounded onto the scene.
Much later, true cats evolved in the ecological zone between open land and forest. This happened during the Miocene when, as I understand it, sequoias covered much of western North America.
But the climate changed back then, for unclear and probably complex reason. As the world became cooler and dryer, North America’s sequoias began a long retreat into what might be their final haven.
Trees may be an easier way to begin exploring the connection between Earth’s changing conditions and evolution.
I don’t know. But let’s just look at one of the world’s tallest trees and reflect that, once upon a time, such trees were simply “the forest.”
How things have changed!
But those changes somehow have led to us — and to cats.
The wonder of life on Earth intensifies when we factor in time . . .
(That issue was December 2012, by the way.)
Featured image: US Forest Service via Wikimedia
Lyle, M.; Barron, J.; Bralower, T. J.; Huber, M.; and others. 2008. Pacific Ocean and Cenozoic evolution of climate. Reviews of Geophysics, 46: RG2002.
Martin, L. D. 1989. Fossil History of the Terrestrial Carnivora, in Carnivore Behavior, Ecology, and Evolution, Volume 1, ed. Gittleman, J. L., 536-568. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Werdelin, L.; Yamaguchi, N.; Johnson, W. E.; and O’Brien, S. J. 2010. Phylogeny and evolution of cats (Felidae), in Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids, eds. Macdonald, D. W., and Loveridge, A. J., 59-82. Oxford: Oxford University Press.