As we’ll see next week, mountain lions –largest native cats in North America — are somewhat more closely related to cheetahs than to most other cats.
This is a little surprising, but it makes sense when you look at their slender bodies and small heads. Also, both wild cats purr** rather than roar, and they tend to be rather shy.
That’s probably the “descent” part of evolution in action.
But Darwin wrote about descent with modification, and these two cats obviously have followed divergent paths in order to survive in their respective habitats.
Mountain lions have the longest hind legs of any member of the cat family, which not only makes them good jumpers but also lets them put on a burst of speed when pursuing prey.
However, there’s a world of difference between the powerful running style of a New World muscle cat . . .
. . . and the high-speed adaptations that are built into its Old World relative!
**Here’s a little lagniappe:
Featured image: Cheetah: yathin sk, CC BY-SA 3.0. Cougar: California Department of Fish and Wildlife, CC BY 2.0