Black panthers are some of the most mysterious animals in the world. Their black fur helps them to move discreetly through jungles and forests and their impressive athleticism allows them to jump swiftly through the trees to sleep or hunt. Some people question though if this animal actually exists. Below is more about the black panther and some interesting facts about them.
Is There Such Thing as a Black Panther?
A black panther is a real animal, however it is a melanistic version of any animal in the panthera family, like jaguars, cougars and leopards, however it isn’t its own species.
Black panthers are found in Asia, Africa, and in parts of the Americas. They enjoy the hot and humid climates these areas have to offer and like to climb through trees to get around. Because of their dark skin, they are able to blend into the local vegetation to stalk prey. This also helps them walk around at night without being seen, something which earned them the nickname of “Ghost of the Forest”.
In addition to this, black panthers are rarely found mingling together making it somewhat hard to spot one in the wild. Because of this, the black panther’s fur might actually protect them from predators and hunters because it helps them to completely disguise themselves in their habitat. This also helps the black panther to blend into its surroundings when hunting allowing them to quickly catch prey, like boars, rabbits, and deer.
Overall, this animal does exist, but it takes extreme effort to find one thanks to their impressive camouflaging abilities.
What Does “Melanistic” Mean?
Melanistic (also known as melanism) is when dark-colored pigment in the skin overdevelops causing the skin and fur of an animal to be completely black. This unique pigmentation is the opposite of albinism.
The black panther is believed to be melanistic because of the low amount of sunlight in the jungles. This is thought to contribute to high amounts of pigment in their skin. However, when one looks closely at their fur, they’ll find that it’s not solid black, but rather covered in dark spots. These spots, known as rosettes, can’t be seen from far away, but rather only on close examination or when direct sunlight shines on the black panther. Younger black panthers tend to have darker fur compared to older black panthers whose fur gradually lightens over time.
What Other Animals are Melanistic?
Numerous animals are melanistic. This includes tigers, king penguins, zebras, jaguars, wolves, seals, squirrels, and springboks. Not all animals will be affected by melanism but it’s thought that around 10% of a species will have it.
A famous example of a melanistic animal is the jaglion. This creature is melanistic and is a mix between a jaguar and lion. However, unlike black panthers, jaglions aren’t usually fertile and usually don’t pass on their melanism to any offspring they might have.
What Causes Melanism in Animals?
Melanism is believed to be caused when an animal has too much loci, a type of pigmentation. However, melanism can result because of a variety of other genes developing abnormally. Scientists have found that mutations in the MC1R and ASIP genes cause melanism in an animal’s body.
Unlike some conditions where an animal’s pigmentation is by chance, melanism in black panthers is usually hereditary. Because of this, their offspring will usually be melanistic.
What is Albinism? What is Leucism?
Albinism is when there isn’t a proper amount of melanin being produced in the body resulting in an animal’s skin, eyes, and hair to be pure white. Leucism is somewhat similar to albinism, but unlike an animal with albinism, an animal with leucism will have color in their eyes. Some species best known for their leucism are European hedgehogs, white bison, and the Kenyan white giraffe.
While albinism and leucism do occur in animals, they are extremely rare. Most animals with albinism or leucism tend to suffer from sunburns and skin cancers because of their extremely light skin. In addition to this, these conditions cause the animal to stand out to predators making them easy prey.
(Related: Do White Tigers Exist in the Wild?)
Is Melanism Rarer Than Albinism?
Melanism isn’t necessarily rarer than albinism, but for some species it can be. For instance, a deer with melanism is very rare compared to wolves, penguins, chickens, or squirrels with it. Melanism is somewhat common in the feline family though with almost 13 feline species having this interesting pigmentation.
Why are Blue Animals Rare?
Blue animals are rare because it’s difficult for their body to produce molecules that create blue pigment. Most animals that appear blue in the world, like blue jays, aren’t actually blue at all, but rather display blue coloring because of sunlight reflecting off their body. Some animals will also appear to be blue due to the food they eat. For instance, a blue-footed booby gets its bright blue feet thanks to its diet of fish that have a lot of carotenoid pigments in their bodies.
There is only one true blue animal in the world that produces an impressive amount of blue pigmentation – the obrina olivewing butterfly. This butterfly is completely black but their wings feature splotches of turquoise at the corners.
Do Maltese Tigers Exist?
It’s not sure whether or not Maltese tigers, also known as blue tigers, truly exist, but a few people have reported seeing this rare creature wandering around the jungles of Asia. The first Maltese tiger recorded was in the early 1920s but there haven’t been many sightings since then. Some believe that because tigers in this area were hunted so heavily for holistic medicinal purposes, if Maltese tigers did exist at one point, they no longer do because they were hunted to extinction.
The Maltese tiger is thought to have bluish-white fur that is covered in black stripes. Despite being located in Asia, the tiger is called “Maltese” because many felines in Malta have similar fur coloring.
Black panthers do exist in certain parts of the world and are known for their striking black fur – a result of melanism. They can be found deep in the world’s jungles and rainforests, although rarely seen thanks to their strong camouflage.