|Time Period:||Middle Pleistocene|
|Size:||2.4 meters long|
|Classification:||| Chordata | Mammalia | Carnivora | Felidae ||
The Early Middle Pleistocene European cave lion is an extinct feline of the Pleistocene epoch. It was generally considered to be an early subspecies of the lion (Panthera leo), and thus called "Panthera leo fossilis," but a recent test suggests that cave lions may not have been subspecies of Panthera leo, but closely related to it. In that case, this felid would be called "Panthera fossilis." Some have placed it within the same species as the later cave lion, under the name "Panthera spelaea fossilis."
With a maximum head and body length of 2.4 metres (7.9 feet), which is about 0.5 metres (1.6 feet) longer than today's African lions, Panthera leo fossilis was almost as big as the American cave lion from the Upper Pleistocene.
Many bone-fragments of this cat are known from Mosbach in Germany, a small village, which is now included in the town of Wiesbaden. A nearly complete skull was found at Mauer, near Heidelberg (Germany). In the same sediment as the lion-skull was a 550,000-year-old lower jaw from the early hominid Homo heidelbergensis. The oldest records of Panthera leo fossilis in Europe are from Isernia at Italy and are about 700,000 years old. A 1.75-million-year-old jaw of a lion or felid, from Olduvai in Kenya, shows a striking similarity to those of Europe.
From Panthera leo fossilis derived the Upper Pleistocene European cave lion (Panthera leo spelaea), which is recorded for the first time about 300,000 years ago.