Phonetic: Ah-se-non-ix par-den-sis.
Named By: Brookes - 1828.
Classification: Chordata, Mammalia, Carnivora, Felidae, Acinonyx.
Species: A. pardinensis.
Sub species: A. p. aicha, A. p. arvernesis, A. p.pardinensis, A. p.pleistocaenicus, A. p.intermedius, A. p. linxiaensis.
Size: Roughly about 90 centimetres high at the shoulder. Body length about 200 centimetres long, tail and additional 140 centimetres in length.
Known locations: Across Europe, Asia and Africa with fossils located in Austria, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Kenya, Morocco, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Tajikistan and Tanzania.
Time period: End of the Pliocene/Early Pleistocene through to the Holocene.
Fossil representation: Remains of many individuals revealing most of the skull and skeleton.
pardinensis, more colloquially known as the giant cheetah,
prehistoric relative of the modern cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus.
modern cheetah typically ranges between 70-90 centimetres tall at
the shoulder, with a head and body length about 110-140
centimetres, with an additional 60-84 centimetres for the tail.
Acinonyx pardinensis stood about as tall as a large
modern cheetah but
the combined head and body length was significantly more reaching
around 200 centimetres, with a tail about 140 centimetres
long. What this means is that when seen from the side, Acinonyx
pardinensis would look like a modern cheetah that had
The larger size of Acinonyx pardinensis might suggest a preference for slightly larger prey, though sprinting speed and agility would have still been key to its hunting strategy. Like with the modern cheetah, Acinonyx pardinensis had a short nasal passage and wide nostrils that allowed for a rapid exchange of oxygenated air into the lungs. Attachment points for muscles connecting to bones also indicate that Acinonyx pardinensis would have still been lightly built, all traits of a predator that would sneak close to prey before exploding to a fast running speed to chase down prey when it was close enough. Given that Acinonyx pardinensis fossils have been commonly found in fluvial wetland deposits, Acinonyx pardinensis may have targeted animals such as smaller deer which browsed upon wetland plants.
Fossil remains of Acinonyx pardinensis are most commonly found in fluvial deposits suggesting that Acinonyx pardinensis preferred to hunt on flat expanses of land much like its modern day relative. However, some fossils have been recovered from caves, once again revealing that caves were hot property in the Pleistocene and sought out by much of the fauna at the time. The fossils distribution of Acinonyx pardinensis covers much of Africa and Eurasia and is indicative of an animal that was very successful before going extinct.
Acinonyx pardinensis lived throughout the Pleistocene and even made it into the early Holocene, but went extinct soon after. Perhaps the most likely cause of this extinction was climate change forcing a shift in ecosystems and animals. Africa for example was once much wetter and greener than it is today, but over the last few thousands of years parts, the north especially has been drying out. This has seen many of the rivers and flood plains drying out and being replaced at best by savannah which are populated by animals that Acinonyx pardinensis was not as well suited to hunt. The modern cheetah however which is better adapted to these environments has survived, and has only been threatened by people hunting them for sport and to protect livestock.
- Acinonyx pardinensis (Carnivora, Felidae) from the Early Pleistocene of Pantalla (Italy): predatory behavior and ecological role of the giant Plio-Pleistocene cheetah. - Quarternary Science Reviews 87 82-97 - Marco Cherin, Dawid Adam Iurino, Raffaele Sardella & Lorenzo Rool - 2014.