Prehistoric Relatives of TCWR Residents

There are many extinct species that once roamed the earth in prehistoric times. This includes the prehistoric relatives of the […]

There are many extinct species that once roamed the earth in prehistoric times. This includes the prehistoric relatives of the animals living here at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. Below are just a few of the ancient relatives of our residents.


Prehistoric Tiger

The Ngandong tiger (Panthera tigris soloensis) wandered Southeast Asia during the first half of the late Pleistocene period, 126,000 years ago. The size of the Ngandong tiger is not entirely known. Some fossils suggest P. tigris soloensis were the size of modern day bengal tigers, while other fossils suggest they would have weighed over 800 lbs, almost twice the weight of bengals. Their prey were deer and wild boars, similar to the tiger populations in Asia today. The Ngandog tiger is a prehistoric relative to TWCR residents like Opie, Montana, and Aurora.

Montana laying on his bench


Prehistoric Lions

A prehistoric skull found in Kenya was recently identified as a lion skull (Panthera leo). This prehistoric lion would have been much larger than modern day lions in Africa. It is the largest lion skull currently known. It is also the first evidence of the existence of giant lions in the late Pleistocene in eastern Africa.

Giant P. leo skull found in Kenya


Lions were not only found in Africa during prehistoric times. Did you know there once was a species of lion that inhabited North America? The range of these lions spanned from Alaska to Peru. A large number of American lion fossils were found in asphalt deposits at La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California. These prehistoric lions found themselves trapped when trying to hunt prey stuck in the tar pits. Although American lion fossils have been found in North America, they are related to modern lions Africa, Panthera leo.

These prehistoric lions are related to TCWR residents such as Chief, Lyla, and Ungowwa.


Prehistoric Jaguars 

The first jaguar (Panthera gombaszoegensis), from which the modern day jaguar descended, originated in Europe in the early Pleistocene period before making its way across the globe. This prehistoric jaguar, known as the European jaguar, was larger in size than modern jaguars (Panthera onca). The size of the European jaguar was similar to that of a small modern African lion.

As jaguar species evolved and made their way to the Americas, early American jaguars emerged such as Panthera onca augusta. P. onca augusta was also much larger than modern jaguars, weighing up to 463 lbs. However, as the earth warmed, jaguars evolved into a smaller size, allowing them to be more successful in their environments. The European jaguar is a distant relative to TCWR’s jaguar Bagheera.


Rendition of the prehistoric Panthera onca augusta


Prehistoric Bears

The cave bear, Ursus spelaeus, was a prehistoric species of bear that inhabited the caves of Europe during the late Pleistocene and is related to the modern brown bear. These bears weighed between 800-2,200 pounds. The teeth of these bears suggest that they were vegetarian. 

A prehistoric brown bear subspecies Ursus arctos priscus, known as the steppe brown bear, lived during the Pleistocene. These bears do not differ from recent brown bears genetically, but do differ morphologically with their enlarged and bread cheek teeth. The steppe brown bears were more carnivorous than modern brown bears. These bears are an ecomorph that adapted to live in open environments.

The giant short-faced bear, Arctodus simus, once roamed North America and was the largest land carnivore during the Pleistocene period. These bears had long legs, a short body, and a short face. However, recent evidence indicates the short-faced bear might not actually have had a short face. Their size was larger than a polar bear, and males could be twice as large as the females of the species. Although they were considered large carnivores, their diets could have consisted of various amounts of plant material.

*Although interesting to learn about, these short-faced bears are not related to the North American brown bears of modern times. 

The cave bear and steppe brown bear are prehistoric relatives of our ham of a grizzly bear Bam Bam.


Prehistoric Hyena 

The giant hyena Pachycrocuta brevirostris was able to crack bones and tear apart carcasses with its powerful jaws. This hyena species was the largest bone cracking animal in existence, even when comparing it to modern relatives of the species, weighing over 220 pounds. The giant hyena lived during the Pleistocene period and inhabited Africa, Asia, and Europe. The species preyed on ungulates (hoofed mammals). These giant hyenas are prehistorically related to TCWR’s spotted hyena Rambo, who resides at Rescue Ridge.



There are many more animals that can be considered prehistoric relatives of TCWR residents, but listed above are a few. Check out the animals at Turpentine Creek and see if you can remember some of their prehistoric relatives!

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