Using oligonucleotide primers designed to match hypervariable segments I (HVS-1) ofPanthera tigris mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), we amplified two different PCR products (500 bp and 287 bp) in the tiger (Panthera tigris), but got only one PCR product (287 bp) in the leopard (Panthera pardus). Sequence analyses indicated that the sequence of 287 bp was a D-loop-like nuclear mitochondrial sequence (Numts), indicating a nuclear transfer that occurred approximately 4.8–17 million years ago in the tiger and 4.6–16 million years ago in the leopard. Although the mtDNA D-loop sequence has a rapid rate of evolution, the 287-bp Numts are highly conserved; they are nearly identical in tiger subspecies and only 1.742% different between tiger and leopard. Thus, such sequences represent molecular ‘fossils’ that can shed light on evolution of the mitochondrial genome and may be the most appropriate outgroup for phylogenetic analysis. This is also proved by comparing the phylogenetic trees reconstructed using the D-loop sequence of snow leopard and the 287-bp Numts as outgroup.