A team of paleontologists from the National Museum of Natural Sciences has just described a new feline species that lived in Madrid around 15.5 million years ago, in the Middle Miocene. They have named the new genus and species as Magerifelis peignei.

This discovery is crucial for understanding the evolution of felines, as it represents a previously unknown form with primitive dentition and jaw structure.

The genus name refers to the city of Madrid followed by “Felis,” which means cat in Latin. The species is dedicated to Stéphane Peigné, a French paleontologist who collaborated with the team. The description is based on a jaw recovered in 2007 at the Príncipe Pío fossil site, discovered during construction work at the train station.

During the Miocene, between 20 and 5 million years ago, a group of small felines lived, of which very few remains are known. Until now, only some teeth and fragmented bones were found.

In 2007, we found this important site in Príncipe Pío, where a feline jaw stood out, and we have just published its study, explains researcher Manuel Salesa.

We recovered the almost complete jaw with almost all of its dentition in excellent condition. Most surprising was the presence of a tiny second lower molar, a tooth absent in all current and fossilized felines except in Proailurus, notes researcher Gema Siliceo. Through computed tomography, they were able to study the internal morphology of the teeth.

The jaw is more robust than in felines of its size, suggesting an adaptation to withstand significant stress while hunting relatively large prey, according to Salesa. Additionally, the jaw muscles had highly developed insertion areas, indicating larger muscle masses.

15.5 million years ago, the climate in Madrid was warmer, with abundant meadows and wooded patches that hosted a rich mammalian fauna. Among them were numerous ungulates and large carnivores such as bears and giant wolves, as well as ailurids, mustelids, and small felines like Magerifelis peignei.

Preserving Madrid’s significant paleontological heritage, one of the most prominent in Spain, is essential as it provides crucial data on the evolution of many mammal groups, says Jorge Morales. This discovery represents a new step in understanding the history of felines.


Sources

Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales – CSIC | Manuel J. Salesa, Jesús Gamarra, Gema Siliceo, Mauricio Antón & Jorge Morales (2024) Unraveling the diversity of early felines: a new genus of Felinae (Carnivora, Felidae) from the Middle Miocene of Madrid (Spain), Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, DOI:10.1080/02724634.2023.2288924


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