The lion's closest relatives are the other species of the genus Panthera, namely tiger, snow leopard, jaguar, and leopard. Results of phylogenetic studies published in 2006 and 2009 indicate that the jaguar and the lion belong to one sister group that diverged about 2. 06 million years ago. Results of later studies indicate that the leopard and the lion belong to the same sister group, which diverged 3. 1â1. 95 million years ago. The geographic origin of the Panthera is most likely northern Central Asia. The leopard-lion clade was distributed in the Asian and African Palearctic since at least the Early Pliocene. The clade consisting of lion and Eurasian cave lion is thought to have diverged in Africa or Holarctic Asia, 2. 93â1. 23 million years ago. Hybridisation between lion and snow leopard ancestors, however, may have continued until about 2. 1 million years ago. The Eurasian and American cave lions became extinct at the end of the last glacial period without mitochondrial descendants on other continents.
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