A black panther is typically a melanistic color variant of any of several species of larger cat. In the Americas, wild 'black panthers' may be black jaguars(Panthera onca), while in Asia and Africa, black leopards (Panthera pardus). Smaller wild cats, like jaguarundi, may also be black. Captive black panthers may be black jaguars, or more commonly black leopards.
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 present, but are hidden by the excess black pigment melanin, giving an effect similar to that of printed silk. This is called "ghost striping". Melanistic and non-melanistic animals can be littermates. It is thought that melanism may confer a selective advantage under certain conditions since it is more common in regions of dense forest, where light levels are lower. Recent, preliminary studies also suggest that melanism might be linked to beneficial mutations in the immune system.
The black panther is common in the equatorial rainforest of Malaya and the tropical rainforest on the slopes of some African mountains such as Mount Kenya. Between January 1996 and March 2009, Indochinese leopards were photographed at 16 sites in the Malay Peninsula in a sampling effort of more than 1000 trap nights. Of 445 photographs of melanistic leopards taken, 410 came from study sites south of the Isthmus of Kra, where the non-melanistic morph was never photographed. These data suggest the near fixation of the dark allele in the region. The expected time to fixation of this recessive allele due to genetic drift alone ranged from about 1,100 years to about 100,000 years
Where they from
Africa and Asia. The black panther is really a black leopard. The spots can be seen at certain angles in the sunlight.