A black panther is a large black cat, typically a melanistic colour variant of any of several species of larger cat. Wild black panthers in Latin America are black jaguars (Panthera onca), in Asia and Africa they are black leopards (Panthera pardus), and in North America they may be black jaguars or possibly black cougars (Puma concolor – although this has not been proven to have a black variant), or smaller cats.
Melanism in the jaguar (Panthera onca), is conferred by a dominant allele, and in the leopard (Panthera pardus) by a recessive allele. Close examination of the color of these black cats will show that the typical markings are still there, but are hidden by the excess black pigment melanin, giving an effect similar to that of printed silk. Melanistic and non-melanistic animals can be littermates. Albino or leucistic individuals of the same species are known as white panthers.
This post is dedicated to Nancy Gelhorn.