Interspecies Conflict/Evolving predators

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QUESTION: Hi,
     With lions and tigers becoming more scarce and with the reality that they will probably become extinct could the leopard evolve into a larger predator and take the top predator position in Africa and parts of Asia ?

ANSWER: Hi Morgan,

Well I can't say anything about the future but yes, we can guess with some evidence. In Pakistan, Lions and Tigers are extinct. For a long time, the Leopard is the top predator here. But as yet, it hasn't evolved into a larger predator. Moreover, in Madagascar, the Fossa is the top predator. For a long time, neither did the Fossa evolve into a large size. Same is the case with Tasmanian Devil, thylacine etc. But if your talking about in terms of millions of years a change may take place due to climate or the nature of prey.

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---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thankyou, yes it did the reason I ask is because there is evidence to leopards being larger in the African rainforest possible due to the absence of larger predators.  I'm not sure if your familiar with the marozi but could this be evidence of a much larger subspecies. Anyway I was wondering if you could answer these questions for me

If the leopard did infact evolve into a say 200kg male and 120kg female would it be able to compete with lions as the leopard would have to adapt to a life on the ground because of its weight ?

Also, with the same weights, what prey would the leopard be consuming, I feel as thought the leopard would be a much more powerful predator at 200kg than a lion ?

Regards Morgan

Answer
Hi Morgan,

Question no.1:
According to what I think, as the Leopard's weight will increase due to evolution, according to your scenerio, side by side it would also adapt to life on ground. Also, I must point out that from the four big cats, the Leopard is the most adaptable. But as with, competition with Lions I think it would be pretty tough as the Leopard is a solitary creature and wouldn't stand a chance against a pride of Lions. Today's Leopards are safer from getting their meals snatched as compared to cheetahs, thanks to their superior climbing ability. But with this ability taken out, they would face fierce competition from Lions. I find it strange how Tigers coexist with Asiatic Lions and I deduce it by saying that it could compete but it cannot be the apex predator in the presence of Lions.

Question no.2:
A Leopard is not pound for pound, as powerful as the jaguar but a 400+ pound Leopard would be no joke. I have a feeling that with increase in weight, it would become slower but more powerful and more formidable than a similarly sized Lion.

Hope that helped
Don't hesitate to ask again

Interspecies Conflict

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