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Panthera facts for kids

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Pair of lions v2.jpg
Two lions (Panthera leo)
Scientific classification

Oken, 1816
Type species
Felis pardus
Linnaeus, 1758

Panthera is a genus of the family Felidae. It has five living species, which are the biggest cats in the Felidae. The tiger is the largest Panthera species, and the largest of all cats. The leopard is the smallest Panthera species.

Results of genetic analysis indicate that the snow leopard also belongs to the Panthera, a classification that was accepted by IUCN assessors in 2008. The genus Neofelis is also closely related.

The tiger, lion, leopard, and jaguar are the only cat species with the anatomical structure that enables them to roar. The primary reason for this was formerly assumed to be the incomplete ossification of the hyoid bone. However, new studies show the ability to roar is due to other morphological features, especially of the larynx. The snow leopard does not roar. Although its hyoid bone is incompletely ossified, it lacks the special morphology of the larynx.


The word panther derives from classical Latin panthēra, itself from the ancient Greek pánthēr (πάνθηρ). The phonetically similar Sanskrit word पाण्डर pând-ara means 'pale yellow, whitish, white'.


In Panthera species, the dorsal profile of the skull is flattish or evenly convex. The frontal interorbital area is not noticeably elevated, and the area behind the elevation is less steeply sloped. The basicranial axis is nearly horizontal. The inner chamber of the bullae is large, the outer small. The partition between them is close to the external auditory meatus. The convexly rounded chin is sloping. All Panthera species have an incompletely ossified hyoid bone. Specially adapted larynx with proportionally larger vocal folds are covered in a large fibro-elastic pad. These characteristics enable all Panthera species except snow leopard to roar. Panthera species can prusten, which is a short, soft, snorting sound; it is used during contact between friendly individuals. The roar is an especially loud call with a distinctive pattern that depends on the species.


During the 19th and 20th centuries, various explorers and staff of natural history museums suggested numerous subspecies, or at times called races, for all Panthera species. The taxonomist Pocock reviewed skins and skulls in the zoological collection of the Natural History Museum, London and grouped subspecies described, thus shortening the lists considerably. Since the mid-1980s, several Panthera species became subject of genetic research, mostly using blood samples of captive individuals. Study results indicate that many of the lion and leopard subspecies are questionable because of insufficient genetic distinction between them. Subsequently, it was proposed to group all African leopard populations to P. p. pardus and retain eight subspecific names for Asian leopard populations.

Based on genetic research, it was suggested to group all living sub-Saharan lion populations into P. l. leo. Results of phylogeographic studies indicate that the Western and Central African lion populations are more closely related to those in India and form a different clade than lion populations in Southern and East Africa; southeastern Ethiopia is an admixture region between North African and East African lion populations.

Black panthers do not form a distinct species, but are melanistic specimens of the genus, most often encountered in the leopard and jaguar.


Two cladograms for Panthera
Two cladograms proposed for Panthera. The upper one is based on phylogenetic studies by Johnson et al. (2006), and by Werdelin et al. (2010). The lower cladogram is based on a study by Davis et al. (2010) and by Mazák et al. (2011).

The cladogram below follows Mazák, Christiansen and Kitchener (2011).


NeofelisStudienblatt Felis macroscelis Nebelparder (white background).jpg


Panthera unciaStamp-russia2014-save-russian-cats-(snow leopard).png

Panthera palaeosinensis

Panthera oncaFelis onca - 1818-1842 - Print - Iconographia Zoologica - Special Collections University of Amsterdam - (white background).jpg

Panthera atrox

Panthera spelaeaStamps of Moldova 2010 Panthera leo spelaea (mod).jpg

Panthera leoFelis leo - 1818-1842 - Print - Iconographia Zoologica - Special Collections University of Amsterdam -(White Background).jpg

Panthera pardusFelis pardus - 1818-1842 - Print - Iconographia Zoologica - Special Collections University of Amsterdam - (white background).jpg

Panthera tigrisStamp-russia2014-save-russian-cats-(tiger).png

Panthera zdanskyi

In 2018, results of a phylogenetic study on living and fossil cats were published. This study was based on the morphological diversity of the mandibles of saber-toothed cats, their speciation and extinction rates. The generated cladogram indicates a different relation of the Panthera species, as shown below:


Panthera palaeosinensis

Panthera blytheae

Panthera uncia Stamp-russia2014-save-russian-cats-(snow leopard).png

Panthera zdanskyi

Panthera tigris Stamp-russia2014-save-russian-cats-(tiger).png

Panthera gombaszoegensis

Panthera onca Felis onca - 1818-1842 - Print - Iconographia Zoologica - Special Collections University of Amsterdam - (white background).jpg

Panthera pardus Felis pardus - 1818-1842 - Print - Iconographia Zoologica - Special Collections University of Amsterdam - (white background).jpg

Panthera leo Felis leo - 1818-1842 - Print - Iconographia Zoologica - Special Collections University of Amsterdam -(White Background).jpg

Panthera spelaea Stamps of Moldova 2010 Panthera leo spelaea (mod).jpg

Panthera atrox

Contemporary species

The following list of the genus Panthera is based on the taxonomic assessment in Mammal Species of the World and reflects the taxonomy revised in 2017 by the Cat Classification Task Force of the Cat Specialist Group:

Species Subspecies IUCN Red List status and distribution
Tiger P. tigris (Linnaeus, 1758)

Panthera tigris corbetti (Tierpark Berlin) 832-714-(118).jpg

Tigers of mainland Asia P. t. tigris (Linnaeus, 1758) including:

Sunda Island tiger P. t. sondaica Temminck, 1844) including

[[Endangered species|]]

Tiger map.jpg

Lion P. leo (Linnaeus, 1758)

P l Bleyenberghi 1.jpg

P. l. leo (Linnaeus, 1758) including:

P. l. melanochaita (Smith, 1842) including:

  • †Cape lion P. l. melanochaita sensu stricto
[[Vulnerable species|]]

Lion distribution.svg

Jaguar P. onca (Linnaeus, 1758)

Standing jaguar.jpg

Monotypic [[Near Threatened|]]

Panthera onca distribution.svg

Leopard P. pardus (Linnaeus, 1758)

African leopard, Panthera pardus pardus, near Lake Panic, Kruger National Park, South Africa (19448654130).jpg

African leopard P. p. pardus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Indian leopard P. p. fusca (Meyer, 1794)
Javan leopard P. p. melas (G. Cuvier, 1809)
Arabian leopard P. p. nimr (Hemprich and Ehrenberg), 1833
Anatolian leopard and Persian leopard P. p. tulliana (Valenciennes, 1856), syn. P. p. ciscaucasica (Satunin, 1914), P. p. saxicolor Pocock, 1927
Amur leopard P. p. orientalis (Schlegel, 1857), syn. P. p. japonensis (Gray, 1862)
Indochinese leopard P. p. delacouri Pocock, 1930
Sri Lankan leopard P. p. kotiya Deraniyagala, 1956

Leopard distribution.jpg

Snow leopard P. uncia (Schreber, 1775)

Schneeleopard Koeln.jpg


SnowLeopard distribution.jpg

Images for kids

See also

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