Some of you may have seen our social media post where I had a minor nerd moment about how I had figured out cat speciation post flood. This post attracted more than the usual atheist troll attention on twitter. In fact, even as I write this, comments are still coming in. I suspect this article will as well. So for the atheists trolls reading this article, this is deliberately meant as a layman’s overview. Technical details will probably be published in a more technical paper at some point.
In building out this speciation chart, I used mitochondrial DNA sequences from all but two living species of cat. I would have used all living species full mtDNA species available for each. After obtaining the sequences, and lining them up, they were run through a phylogenetic tree output algorithm. While I have been extensively critical of phylogenetics, because of its assumption of ancestry, within the Biblical kind ancestry is assumed as well, so the tool can be used at this level. I performed two trees, one with an outgroup, and one without. Since the two trees varied little, I will show the one without the outgroup.
For those not familiar with a phylogenetic tree, the straight lines represent lineages and the places where they fork represent speciation events. What you find from looking at the branching is that there are four major lineages of cats. The first and most obvious one is the big cats of genus Panthera and Neofelis. The other three lineages all come back to one lineage that subdivided early. Included in this lineage is everything from Cheetahs to housecats. Let’s break it down.
The nice thing about this tree is it has explanatory power. We can look at it and, based on where we know these cats live today, infer migratory patterns, the timing of speciation, and even interbreeding between species. In the case of Panthera and Neofelis, we can learn quite a bit from the tree. For example, the two subspecies of lion, Asian and African, are very closely related and despite almost never interbreeding in the wild, are probably one species. The rest of the speciation is somewhat linear within this group. As this lineage spread out post-flood, Neofelis, the clouded leopards, broke away first and went to southeast Asia, where numerous other cat species ended up. However, that split in lineage also included the jaguar, the snow leopard, and the tiger. Of the big cats, only the leopard and the lion went west into Africa. However, given leopards and lions also inhabit Asia, and the tree representing one continuous branch, rather than multiple branches, I think we can infer relatively confidently that all of the big cat lineages originally migrated into central Asia and populations of lions and leopards later migrated back into Africa, where they became apex predators. Jaguars likely crossed the Bering Strait land bridge during the ice age and migrated south into central and south America.
This lineage is perhaps the easiest on the chart. It is one genus that goes to one place, Central and South America. Leopardus is part of the second major lineage of cats. The Leopardus lineage splits early from this second lineage, then branches into several different species and lineages once it hits Central and South America. Most likely it crossed the Bering land bridge before speciating. Alternatively, it could have crossed from Africa to South America by means of the floating log mats left by the end of the Flood. Either route works. I lean towards the land bridge, but I’d be open to either and I may change this as I look into the speciation patterns more.
This lineage is where things start to get confusing. There are more genera to keep track of and groups going different directions within sublineages. I’ve labeled this group Medium Cats but it could be labeled any number of other things as well. We will start with Pardofelis since it is easy. This lineage splits out early and ends up in southeast Asia. After the Pardofelis split, things start getting messy.
Catopuma is the next genus to split off. Based on there current location and the rest of the tree, I think we can infer that the rest of this sublineage was still together at this point as Catopuma made their way to southeast Asia. It is possible that Catopuma and Pardofelis interbred some during Catopuma‘s trip into southeast Asia.
This is where the lineages split and get very messy. It devolves into a Lynx lineage and a Puma lineage, that also contains the Cheetah. Lynx rufus was likely the first Lynx species. Before the ice age ended, it patrolled the frozen north , freely crossing the Bering land bridge and mating between Eurasian and American populations. However, at the end of the Ice Age, speciation would begin to occur as populations across the Bering Strait could no longer mix, and the retreating ice left some species trapped. Lynx canadensis and Lynx pardinus likely represent examples of populations becoming isolated as the ice retreated, while Lynx lynx probably represents speciation that took place as a result of splitting populations of Lynx rufus at the end of the Ice Age.
The Puma part of the lineage is a bit simpler. As the lineage formed, the Cheetah branch moved west, towards Africa, where they became iconic. The Puma branch moved into North America, likely by means of the Bering land bridge and speciated on arrival into the two species we observe today in both North and South America.
When you say the word “cat” these are the animals you think of. This is perhaps the most complicated branch of the tree so we are going to try to break it down, starting with a lineage with three genera in it that I’ve labeled the several lineage. These cats split first from the small cat lineage and are comparable in some ways to the smaller medium cats. Leptailurus several speciated before the caracal and the African golden cat but all three inhabit northern and central Africa. This seems to indicate the lineage arrived in northern Africa before speciating further, and that the caracal’s presence in the Middle East is the result of migration back towards Asia.
The rest of the small cats are more complicated. We will start with the well-populated genus Prionailurus. These cats split out early and ended up in southeast Asia, where they speciated into four different species, all occupying the same general niches in different areas. There is a possibility of hybridization occurring between Prionailurus and the rest of the southeast Asian cats.
The remaining Felids are an interesting study. Octocolobus occupies small niches throughout Central Asia and may have speciated from Felis shortly after Felis diverged from the main small cat lineage. The distribution of these cats compared to the tree is interesting and complex. Felis nigripens and F. chaus share their most recent common ancestor despite one being found in southern Africa and the other in Central and east Asia. However, there is a small section of F. chaus’s home range in Egypt so it is possible that the populations diverged from there and F. nigripens speciated thereafter. F. margarita also has a small population in Egypt, along with populations in the rest of North Africa. It seems likely that the three populations once were one species before diverging. F. sylvestris is supposedly most closely related to F. catus, the modern cat, but it’s important to remember that the modern housecat is a genetic mongrel, with several hybridization events happening in the past. Thus placing it accurately may be difficult.
Having gone through all the cats, we can see that this matches the Biblical narrative rather well. We find after the Flood the command to refill the earth given to both man and the animals. It seems the cats were obedient to that command.
Do you know what’s going to happen when you die? Are you completely sure? If you aren’t, please read this or listen to this. You can know where you will spend eternity. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us, we’d love to talk to you.