NEW YORK, Nov. 1, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Cats are one of the most diverse and studied mammals in the world, yet only now is their real identity being understood. Evolutionary tricks and adaptations have contributed to their successful survival. In fact, all 37 species of the cat family behave similarly in the way they hunt, utilizing flexible spines and sharp teeth to catch their prey. No surprise, then, that they are one of the greatest predators since the dinosaurs and are still evolving.
This two-part series chronicles the 11 million year history of how the most widespread carnivore on the planet evolved, from their roots in ancient rainforests to today's popular house cat. The latest discoveries by scientists studying their physiology and behaviors are also incorporated into the series. The Story of Cats airs Wednesdays, November 2 and 9, 2016 at 8p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). After the broadcast, the episode will be available for limited online streaming at pbs.org/nature. The first episode, Asia to Africa, shows how the first cats arose in the rainforests of Southeast Asia and moved throughout the continent adjusting to other environments such as high altitudes (snow leopard, Pallas's cat) and frozen forests (Siberian tigers). The film introduces the most ancient type of cat existing today, the rare clouded leopard, whose genetic blueprint is shared by all cats. Learning how to become ambush predators through play is one of the crucial traits that all young members of the cat family must develop in order to survive in the wild. Cubs of species like the clouded leopard don't have much time to master these skills before their mother forces them out to find their own territories as solitary predators. It is one of the reasons that around nine million years ago, the ancient tree climbing felines began to fan out all over Asia.