The cat family (family Felidae) consist of about 40 species that range from the big Siberian tiger to the small black-footed cat. Under the family is a group of cats known as the big cats which consist of four species of cat, which are:
1. Tiger (Panthera Tigris)
2. Lion (Panthera Leo)
3. Leopard (Panthera Pardus)
4. Jaguar (Panthera Onca)
They are not called big cats based on their size but on their ability to roar, a deep, prolonged sound. All the member of the big cats belongs to the genus Panthera, which consist of only five(5) species with the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) the only member of the genus that cannot roar. The exclusion of the snow leopard means there are only four big cats which are usually called the big four.
Mechanism of roaring
The two morphological features that enable the big cats to roar are the location of their larynx and the presence of incomplete ossified hyoid bone.
The larynx of the big cats is much lower in their throat, extending the distance between the voice box which consists squared-shaped vocal cords as opposed to the triangular-shaped cords of other cats to the mouth and nose.
Also, the elasticity of the larynx and the length of the vocal tract affect the format of the sound produced. The snow leopard possesses the incomplete ossified hyoid bone but lacks the unique morphology of the larynx requires to roar.
Short note on each member of the big cats
The most notorious predator in Africa and with large amount of hairs around the neck region known as mane, which resembles a crown around the head of the male, crowning the lion the king of the jungle along with other attributes.
The lion is the only cat species known to live in social groups known as pride where the lion defends the territory, and the females work together to hunt.
The largest cat species, the tiger can be found in territories in Siberia, India and Southeast Asia. Their beautiful stripes are like human fingerprints, unique to each individual. They are one of the few cats that enjoy swimming. It also has the highest brain quotient in the family.
The smallest of the big cats, but what it lacks in size, it makes up in speed and agility, making it the fastest among the big cats. Black leopards, as well as black jaguars, are commonly known as Black Panther. The black leopard is also known as Africa Black Panther as it is a native of Africa.
The only member of the big cats found in America; the name Jaguar comes from American word ‘yaguar’ meaning he who kills with one leap. It has the strongest bite force in the family. The black ones are known as Black Panther, which is also referred to as the America Black Panther, this is used to represent the Greek god of the underworld, Hades.
By Agunbiade Adewonuola (NaturePeak)
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