The black panther is iconic, folks. This prince of the plains has been immortalized in a new movie, art across multiple cultures, political activism, professional sports teams… The list goes on and on.
But there’s just one thing you should probably know about the black panther… And it’s a shocker!
Check it out per Mother Nature Network:
It’s not its own individual species.
That’s right, the black panther is actually an umbrella term used to describe any big cat species that exhibits what’s called a melanistic color variation that results in black fur. The name is mostly applied to the jaguar (Panthera onca) and the leopard (Panthera pardus). In the case of jaguars, the black coat is caused by a dominant allele, while it’s a recessive allele leopards can thank for their black fur.
This black fur doesn’t hide those big cats’ spots, however. If you can’t see the spots along the panther’s limbs or in the space between its eyes and ears in the photo above, here’s a clear view of a black jaguar’s spots.
“When their coat catches the sunlight in a certain way, you can see their spots very distinctly; at a bit of a distance, or if there is not direct sunlight on them, they look just like a solid black animal,” Patrick Thomas, general curator of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo, told National Geographic.
Their black coats don’t make these big cats more prone to hunting at night. Indeed, their black fur is actually something of a disadvantage in the jungle, according to Thomas.
“It’s actually easier for other species to spot a solidly patterned animal versus one whose markings are broken up,” he said. “So a tiger with its stripes or a leopard, jaguar or cheetah with its spots are more difficult to see in dappled vegetation than a purely solidly colored animal would be.”
Still, there’s no denying that black panthers are compelling and charismatic cats.
Here’s some cool black panther facts courtesy of Science Kids:
Apart from color the black panther is believed to be less fertile than normal-colored big cats and also much more unpredictable and aggressive.
Black panthers are great swimmers and are one of the strongest tree climbing big cats, often pouncing on prey from a tree. They are capable of leaping up to 20 feet to catch their prey which includes medium sized animals like deer and monkeys and smaller rabbits and birds.
The black panther is often called “the ghost of the forest.” It is a smart, stealth-like attacker and its dark coat helps it hide and stalk prey very easily, especially at night.
Are you planning on seeing the new Black Panther movie?