The term “big cat” is typically used to refer to any of the five living members of the genus Panthera, namely tiger, lion, jaguar, leopard, and snow leopard. Except the snow leopard, these species are able to roar.
Despite enormous differences in size, various cat species are quite similar in both structure and behaviour, with the exception of the cheetah, which significantly stands out from the other big and small cats.
All cats are carnivores and efficient apex predators.Their range includes the Americas, Africa, and Asia.
The ability to roar comes from an elongated and specially adapted larynx and hyoid apparatus.
When air passes through the larynx on the way from the lungs, the cartilage walls of the larynx vibrate, producing sound.
The lion’s larynx is longest, giving it the most robust roar. The roar in good conditions can be heard 8 or even 10 km away. All five extant members of the genus Panthera contain this elongated hyoid but owing to differences in the larynx the snow leopard cannot roar.
It is estimated that the ancestors of most big cats split away from the Felinae about 6.37 million years ago.
The Felinae, on the other hand, comprises mostly small to medium-sized cats, including the domestic cats, but also some larger cats such as the cougar and cheetah.