Monday, August 9, 2010
Creature Feature: Black "Panthers."
The black panther is one of those animals that, if one sees it ANYWHERE in literature except as a symbol of black power, it is easy to tell if the author has done his or her research.
Why? Black panthers are not their own species. They are one morph, melanism (in varying types), spread throughout several big cats. The most common specimens in zoos and personal collections are either jaguars (Panthera onca) or leopards. You can still see the spots if you squint.
There have been few reports of actual black cougars; the melanistic morph has never been confirmed in Puma concolor. Most U.S.-based 'black panthers' are either melanistic bobcats or the far more obscure jaguarundi. Then, of course, you have the exotic animal trade to thank for escaped black leopards and jaguars, which are more irritable than usual due to severe inbreeding. It's like the white tiger thing, only...black.
Can't we all just get along?