A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World
Panthers and Other Black Cats
October 6, 2011Posted by on
October is a month for black cats. Among wild cats, panthers are the most well known black cat…but there are no panthers.
Wait, isn’t that a picture of a panther dozing in San Diego?
Not exactly. Depending on where you are standing on the globe, “panthers” are jaguars or leopards that are melanistic, that is to say, have an excess of dark pigmentation. You can even see the spots. Note the two jaguars below (from the Toronto Zoo). One is melanistic; the other is not.
Melanism in leopards is due to a recessive gene, where in jaguars, it is due to a dominate one.
Other cats can have melanistic traits. Servals, for example, have been shown as melanistic. Camera traps have reported melanistic marbled cats. Black house cats are the result of one gene. Add to it the tabby gene, and faint stripes may be visible.
I often confuse jaguars and leopards, especially in photographs. Fortunately, the wonderful Big Cat Blog helps me know my spots.