HDW ENTERPRISES &
Foothill Felines Bengals/Savannahs
The black panther is a commonly used name for a black (melanistic) color variant of several species of wild cats. The term "panther" often refers to a "large cat" as the genus name Panthera is a taxonomic category that includes several species of felids including the lion, tiger, leopard and jaguar. In North America, however, the term "panther" refers to the cougar (genus Puma) while in Latin America it usually refers to a jaguar. Everywhere else, a "panther" refers to the leopard.
It's even more confusing due to the similarities between the genus Panthera and the genus Leopardus. Originally, these wild cats with the longer tails were all called panthers (genus Panthera, which DOES include the leopard) and others were called leopards (genus Leopardus, which does NOT include the leopard.)
Panthers may be spotted, (such as the spotted jaguar or spotted leopard,) tawny, (such as the puma or cougar,) white, or black. "Melanism" (the genetic term for full color black) is most commonly found in the jaguar (Panthera onca) and the leopard (Panthera pardus). Interestingly, in the jaguar, melanism is dominant, and in the leopard, this color trait is recessive (which means both parents must exhibit or carry the melanism allele). Some scientists believe that melanism may provide a selective advantage for survival since it is more commonly found in regions of dense forest, where light levels are lower. There are also some studies currently in the preliminary stages which may suggest that cats exhibiting melanism may also carry beneficial mutations in their immune systems.
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