The South Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr
) has far more in comon with the Aftrican lineages than with the Central Asian ones, which suggests an earlier and perhaps different migration route to the southern Arabian Peninsula. The main migrations between Africa and Eurasia took place on the Afro-Arabian landmass between 20 and 5 million years ago, and are thought to have stopped when the Red Sea became fully formed, with the Sinai passageway serving as the only available corridor between the continents.
The similarities between Indian and Sri Lankan leopards leave no doubts that the modern Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotyia
) descended from the Indian one (Panthera pardus fusca
). A phylogenetic analysis of leopard subspecies, which is based on evolutionary data, as well as genetic findings indicate that the Far Eastern leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis
) descended from the North Chinese subspecies (Panthera pardus japonensis
), while the latter, in turn, descended from the East Asian leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri
). The three subspecies are probably the youngest, as their many similarities suggest.
The Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas
) is highly distinctive from other Asian leopards for evolutionary reasons that remain controversial. It may have travelled from the Malay Peninsula via Sumatra. However, that the leopard ever inhabited Suimatra is unclear; moreover, the significant genetic distinctions from all the other modern leopard subspecies, its similarities with African subspecies and other Panthera
members suggest that the Javan leopard may not belong to any of the modern leopard lineages, and is probably a relic population from some previous migration. Alternatively, the leopard could have been brought to Java in the past to be reintroduced, in the same way it was likely brought to the small island of Kangean, which is a short distance off Java and Bali. The origin of the Javan leopard remains unclear and calls for further research.
Modern and historical geographic range