The Black Panther Cat Mystery

What are these large black cats people claim to see around the world? A black panther is the melanistic color variant of any Panthera species. Black panthers in Asia and Africa are leopards (Panthera pardus) and black panthers in the Americas are black jaguars (Panthera onca). Melanism in the jaguar is conferred by a dominant allele, and in the leopard by a recessive allele. Close examination of the color of these black cats will show that the typical markings are still present, but are hidden by the excess black pigment melanin, giving an effect similar to that of printed silk. This is called “ghost striping”. Melanistic and non-melanistic animals can be littermates. It is thought that melanism may confer a selective advantage under certain conditions since it is more common in regions of dense forest, where light levels are lower. Recently, preliminary studies also suggest that melanism might be linked to beneficial mutations in the immune system.

Video by BigCatRescue