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Big cat

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Panthera
Leopard on the tree-1-.jpg
Scientific Classification
Species
Panthera leo speleata skeletondrawing.jpg

The members of the genus Panthera are known as “Big cats.” They inhabit the continents South America, Africa, and Asia. The species in Panthera are lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars. One of the most famous members of Panthera is the white Bengal tiger. Most people assume that this tiger is albino, but it is not. Bengal tigers have the double recessive gene that makes for the white coloring. Most people look at lions and assume that they are fierce predators with no possibility of taming. While they are at the top of the food chain in each of their habitats, there are cases where members of panthera can be quite tame.

Anatomy

In many ways they resemble normal house cats. Tails for balance, whiskers for movement in dark and tight spaces, eyes that allow them to see well in the dark, legs made for quick movement, and many other features. However, there are also a few features that make them stand out. The only major difference between house cats and the members of Panthera is that they are much larger. Normal house cats are only about a foot long. Members of Panthera range from about five feet to 9 feet. They weigh in range from about one-hundred pounds to three-hundred pounds.

Reproduction

As a general rule, heat in large cats only occurs in the warmer days of spring and summer. There are exceptions to this rule, as sometimes mating takes place in fall, but even rarer is when animal mating takes place in winter. When the female cat is in heat, it roars louder and more frequently than when it is not in heat. As a result of this, male cats will roar back at a greater rate. Gestation in most big cats takes about eighty to a hundred and twenty days, or three to four months roughly. During gestation the female is more easily agitated and much more hostile to other animals. Once it is time for her to give birth, the female will find a cave if possible, and give birth to live pups. The pups are blind at birth and weigh about two pounds. A normal litter of pups is about two to three, but it is possible to give birth to one or five. After about two weeks the cubs can open their eyes and see, and drink exclusively their mother’s milk. After about a month or so, the mother starts to include meat in their diet. Most big cats reach sexual adulthood at the age of two years.

Ecology

Members of the genus Panthera live in unique climate zones and each have a large area which they hunt is and also claim as their own. They will roar to claim their land and fight over it if another cat tries to impede. Lions are found exclusively in the plains of Africa. Unlike other big cats, they prefer the openness of the savannah. There they are at the top of the food chain and command great respect and fear from all other animals. The only animals that can challenge a lion are crocodiles, elephants and the occasional groups of hyenas. A lion will eat most prey that it comes across, and if given the opportunity, will attack other lions. Jaguars and leopards prefer thick and dense jungles of South America. Unlike lions that normally form a pride of about ten or twelve adult lions, jaguars and leopards prefer to hunt solo and stalk their prey over long periods of time. The leopard is unique because it is the only big cat that is a natural swimmer. The jaguar and leopard are also known to drag their prey into trees to safeguard them from other predators. Like the jaguar and leopard, the tiger is a solitary animal. For the most part, they are nocturnal hunters, but if they have gone long periods of time without eating, they will take to hunting in the daytime. Tigers have the greatest range of living areas including Asia and Africa.

Mythology

Many myths surround members of the genus Panthera. A debunked myth that started in ancient China was that a ghost tiger roamed the forest looking for victims. It was infact, a white bengal tiger. The ancient Chinese thought that eating parts of a lion, such as the heart and brain, would give superhuman strength and courage.

References