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Description: The Leopard

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Spot patterns and coat colour variations in leopards 

10 October 2013

www.leopard.tv

Being the cat with the greatest global geographical distribution, the leopard Panthera pardus has many coat colour and rosette pattern variations. It is the smallest of the four roaring cat species and has relatively short legs, a long body and a large skull. It is similar to the jaguar Panthera onca in having black rosettes and spots. However, the rosettes of a leopard are smaller and more densely packed than those of the jaguar

www.leopard.tvIn a leopard, the rosettes vary geographically in shape, size, the thickness of the margins and whether the margins are broken into two to more black spots. However, the rosettes in a leopard do not have a small, black spot in the centre as is common in the jaguar. They cover most of the body and there are solid, black spots on the lower limbs, belly, throat and face. Along the spine, the spots may be solid or form lines. On the throat the spots sometimes form a necklace while the tail has a combination of black rosettes, spots, patches or rings and a tip that is black on top and white below. The underparts from the chin to the tail are white while the upper half of the backs of the ears are white and the lower half are black. In Eastern Africa the rosettes are more circular than in southern Africa while the largest rosettes occur in Asian leopards.

www.leopard.tvThe background colour of the coat varies considerably geographically from nearly golden to ochre, orange-tawny, pale red, greyish yellow, buff grey, dusky yellowish green to olive green. The coat colour of a leopard may become paler with age. www.leopard.tvBlack leopards are rare in Africa but more common in southern India, and especially common in Java and Malaysia where roughly half the leopards have black coats. In Africa, black leopards have been reported and recorded in the Aberdare Mountains of Kenya, the foothills of the Ruwenzori Mountains, the Ethiopian highlands, the forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and reputedly from South Africa. A black coat colour or melanism is caused by a single recessive gene on an autosomal chromosome. An autosomal chromosome is one that does not determine the sex of an animal. Albino leopards have been reported from India, China, Zimbabwe and East Africa but are rare... (Become a subscriber for more)

 

References

Anon 2013. Anomalous felids. http://www.messybeast.com/genetics/anomalous-bigcats.html

Kingdon, J 1977. East African mammals. Volume lll A: Carnivores. Chicago, Chicago University Press, pp 348 - 353.

Skead, C J 2007. The historical incidence of the larger land mammals in the broader Eastern Cape, second edition. A Boshoff, G Kerley and P L Lloyd (Eds). Port Elizabeth, Centre for African Conservation, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, pp 526 - 534.

Sunquist, M and F Sunquist 2002. Wild cats of the world. Chicago, Chicago University Press, pp 319 - 320.

article by: Prof J du P Bothma

 

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