- Family of mammals containing 37 species in 18 genera representing the cheetah, puma, jaguar, leopard, lion, lynx, tiger, domestic cat, and others, descended from a common ancestor about 10.8 million years ago. According to a 2006 genomic study the ancestor of extant Leopardus, Lynx, Puma, Prionailurus, and Felis lineages migrated across the Bering land bridge into the Americas approximately 8 to 8.5 million years ago. Members of Felidae are typically characterized by having a long tail, a head with a short nose and round face, large eyes positioned for good binocular vision, usually with short ears, sharp claws that are retractile except in the cheetah, a tongue covered with horny papillae, five toes on their forefeet and four on their hindfeet, with the male larger than the female, possessing a genetic anomaly that prevents them from tasting sweetness, and being the most strictly carnivorous of the mammal families in the order Carnivora. Their closest relatives are thought to be the civets, hyenas, and mongooses.
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