The fossil remains of the oldest Iberian lynx specimen found in a cave in Barcelona, Spain, suggest that the feline species lived 1.6 million years ago - half a million years earlier than what was originally believed, says a new study.
Iberian lynx is one of the world's most endangered feline species.
This newly discovered specimen was 10 to 20 centimetres larger and around 10 kg heavier than the Iberian lynx that currently inhabits Donana National Park in Spain.
Its coat was also longer than it is today in order to withstand continuous near-freezing temperatures.
This description of the feline was formulated after a study was carried out on one of the first Iberian lynxes that ever lived in Spain.
This is the oldest Iberian lynx that has been found on the Iberian Peninsula to date and it was discovered in 2003.
The fossil remains of this feline are proof of its presence on the Iberian Peninsula as early as 1.6 to 1.7 million years ago, the researchers said.
Up until now scientists had dated the appearance of the Iberian lynx to between one and 1.1 million years ago. Thus, this discovery means that the emergence of this feline on the Iberian Peninsula actually dates back 500,000 years earlier than what scientists originally thought.
"We have confirmed this earlier appearance of the Iberian lynx based on initial molecular studies that estimate the emergence of this feline during the Early Pleistocene in the Iberian Peninsula," main author of this study Alberto Boscaini, researcher at Miquel Crusafont Catalan Institute of Palaeontology (ICP) in Barcelona.
The study was published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews.