Big spotted pumas... Miracinonyx redux?

I've never used this picture before as I assume that most interested people have seen it. But, whatever...

i-0617e495d9c3aa0a574e82a4f662bc38-spotted-puma -Belize-2002-resized-Oct-2010.jpg

The animal is a Puma Puma concolor, and it was photographed in Belize in 2002 by a remote camera (the photo comes via Marcella Kelly and has featured widely on websites that cover mystery cats). The obvious interpretation is that this near-adult individual (its proportions indicate that it's not fully grown) abnormally retained the spots present during immaturity. And it's not the only spotted puma on record. There's also this one (below), featured here in a photograph from 1936 and mentioned here at messybeast. I've also noticed that at least a few Florida panthers seem to retain faint spots into adulthood (see below) - is this anything to do with them being highly inbred? [the Florida panther has conventionally been regarded as a subspecies - Puma concolor coryi - but some molecular work has failed to support its distinction relative to recognised puma clades (Culver et al. 2000)].


The remote possibility exists that the animal photographed in Belize is a hybrid, but this seems less likely than the idea of spot retention. Anyone who knows cats will be familiar with the fact that members of other plain-coated species have also retained the spots of their juvenile phase into adulthood on occasion: the best example being the few spotted lions that are on record. On a very speculative note, the fact that spots can re-occur as a developmental quirk in a plain-coated species raises the possibility that any such species might be able to re-evolve spots, should such a condition crop up and then be favoured by selection. Lions and pumas both descend from spotted ancestors (Werdelin & Olsson 1997, Ortolani 1999), but the idea that they might evolve spotted morphs or populations is a very real one. And, indeed, some people have argued that there is a spotted lion and that it's a valid phylogenetic entity: it's called the Marozi and was named Panthera leo maculatus by Reginald Pocock (cryptozoologist Bernard Heuvelmans championed its existence in his writings). Its existence is not generally accepted today.

The Florida panther images I had in mind can be viewed here and here (hat-tip to ObSciGuy Paul).

And, if you're wondering about the title of this article, it refers to the question: would a spotted adult puma look like an American cheetah (= Miracinonyx)? The answer: judging from the two animals shown above - hmmm, not much. Of course, there is that modern 'mystery cat', likened by some to a modern American cheetah, and known from those specimens shot in Mexico in 1938 and 1986. The time to discuss it is now well overdue. Yeah, so are a lot of things.

For previous Tet Zoo articles on pumas and various weird and mystery cats, see...

Refs - -

Culver, M., Johnson, W. E., Pecon-Slattery, J. & O'Brien, S. J. 2000. Genomic ancestry of the American puma (Puma concolor). The Journal of Heredity 91, 186-197.

Ortolani, A. 1999. Spots, stripes, tail tips and dark eyes: predicting the function of carnivore colour patterns using the comparative method. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 67, 433-476.

Werdelin, L. & Olsson, L. 1997. How the leopard got its spots: a phylogenetic view of the evolution of felid coat patterns. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 62, 383-400.


More like this


There were two species of Miracinonyx, trumani and inexpectatus. According to Wiki, the latter was more Puma-like than trumani. The Onza and the Georgia's "mystery cat" could well belong to this species.

Yes, the 'onzas' were shown to be pumas, but this has not been properly brought to attention (i.e., in the technical literature). I've been planning for years to write about it here: the story is well known to crytozoologists, but not to that many 'mainstream' zoologists.

At SVP this year there was a poster that reevaluated Miracinonyx trumani on the basis of new material from the Grand Canyon and proposed that - at least in this environment - it hunted less like a cheetah and more like a snow leopard. Likewise, if I recall correctly, the poster also mentioned that some fossil remains of Miracinonyx may have been misidentified as belonging to Puma, so the image of the cat as a North American cheetah analog may be a bit off.

For those interested, the poster was "Hodnett, J., Mead, J., White, R., Carpenter, M. MIRACINONYX TRUMANI (CARNIVORA: FELIDAE) FROM THE RANCHOLABREAN OF GRAND CANYON, ARIZONA AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR THE ECOLOGY OF THE 'AMERICAN CHEETAH'." Hopefully we'll eventually see a full paper on these specimens.

I still hold that the folks in charge of naming stuff should have invoked that rule about well-known and commonly accepted names and kept it Felis concolor. Not because that's well known or more scientifically accurate, but instead just because it's such a much prettier name. Felis concolor rolls off the tongue and is a thing of beauty. Puma concolor sounds like a crappy Bolivian clothing store.

By Onychomys (not verified) on 16 Oct 2010 #permalink

I still hold that the folks in charge of naming stuff should have invoked that rule about well-known and commonly accepted names and kept it Felis concolor.

Such rules are completely irrelevant here because there's been no change in species name, only in which genus the species name is combined with. Besides, appropriateness of a name (in terms of euphemy or such) has no standing in regards to a name's validity.

[sorry, delayed by filter]

That last photo is apparently of captive animals - photo by Kennan Ward (see it on his website here).

If they're the same two individuals shown here they are indeed captive animals (presumably "Florida" means from the FL population???).

So I wonder - is the larger of the two is really the cub's mother, or is just a stand-in a younger individual with some retained spots?

[from Darren: now that I know the source of these images, and have seen the 'limited use' and 'rights managed' notices, I've decided to remove them.]


A few notes on cat odds and ends:

I remember corresponding with Kelly before I wrote about her spotted Puma: she thought it an interesting curiosity but nothing zoologically significant.

However, if one of the American cheetahs might have been more snow-leopard-like, does that raise any possible connection with Ivan Sanderson's "ruffed cat" from Mexico, and animal with spots and a ruff of fur at the neck? (Sanderson writes that the two specimens he bought were destroyed in a local flood, while he saw a third in a market but couldn't afford it.) Were they relict American cheetahs? I don't think anybody's raised this notion before, or at least I have not found it in print.

The two onza specimens tested were indeed odd-looking pumas, but cryptozoologists should be careful to avoid errors in tracking down stories of this cat: I was in the National Museum in Tegucigalpa, Honduras in 1991 and saw a stuffed ocelot labeled "onza."

In regards to the Grand Canyon Miracinonyx materials, my co-authors and I have the manuscript done and it will be published in a book on the Pleistocene paleontology of the Grand Canyon. We are also getting together a team to do the genetic work on the materials from at least one cave that the remains of two individuals were partially mummified. Thie individuals are a juvenile estimated to been around 6 months when it died and the other is sub-adult approximately 10 months to year old when it died. Both individuals came from a single layer dated between 18,000 and 24,000 (Rancholabrean) during the last full glacial. We hope to compare our sample with the genetic sample that was taken from Natural Trap Cave in Wyoming which has the largest sample of M. trumani in North American but none of its materials was mummified.

The Grand Canyon materials raised questions about Miracinonyx trumani's ecology because we have materials from three cave sites along the length of the canyon and their position in the canyon was not anywere near the rim and the most common ungulate from the Grand Canyon during this time period is the extinct mountain goat Oreamos harringtoni.

There is also a strongly spotted subspecies of Asian Golden Cat tristis from SW China, which on illustration at HMW looks like a faded Ocelot!

Would be interesting to know more about this creature, especially how consistent are the spots.

Hi John-Paul,
Could you possibly send me a copy of the MS (barndad at hotmail dot com)? Id be really interested to see it! And if you need any advice on the genetic work Id be happy to help.

By Ross Barnett (not verified) on 16 Oct 2010 #permalink


The Grand Canyon materials raised questions about Miracinonyx trumani's ecology because we have materials from three cave sites along the length of the canyon and their position in the canyon was not anywere near the rim and the most common ungulate from the Grand Canyon during this time period is the extinct mountain goat Oreamos harringtoni.

Do you mean that you find it odd that a cheetah-ish cat would be living in a mountainous habitat and preying on caprines? Some extant cheetahs, particularly the Asian ones, do live and forage in habitats that are quite different from those where most cheetah studies have been conducted (e.g., the East African national parks). For example, in Iran cheetahs live in fairly mountainous areas and frequently prey on wild sheep and ibexes (Farhadinia & Hemami, 2010).


Farhadinia, M. & Hemami, M.-R. 2010. Prey selection by the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah in central Iran. Journal of Natural History 44, 1239-1249.

To Dartian :

Central Iran is a plateau, not a canyon habitat. I think that's why there are cheetah. It seems ibexes are the ones who are not moving in their primary habitat instead.

Krimeg: This how the authors themselves describe their study area (Farhadinia & Hemami, page 1240):

'The study was conducted in Dare-Anjir Wildlife Refuge [...] Dare-Anjir is a hyper-arid hilly-mountainous area with vast expanses of plains surrounding a few main rolling mountains. Altitude ranges from 850 to 2200 m.'

To Dartian :

What I have understood from this specific passage is that cheetah live in the surrounding plains and ibexes come down from the rolling mountains to graze in those plains and thus fall prey to cheetah.

Or more importantly to drink rare water.

Krimeg: Just to be clear, I cited that Iranian cheetah study to point out that A) modern-day cheetahs are more adaptable than is usually thought regarding both their habitat choices as well as their diet (e.g., by preying, as in this case, mainly on 'mountain animals'), and B) by analogy, we might then expect that Miracinonyx trumani, too, could have been at least equally - if not more - ecologically flexible.

Thanks for the clarification, Dartian. What I have learnt from Mr. Hodnett's comment is that Miracinonyx trumani coud have been indeed more ecologically flexible than cheetah since this latter can't live on accidental slopes.

If trumani was really flexible, then why should it be considered as definitely extinct ?
This flexibility give credit to Senderson's critter.

Considering Miracinonyx, I wonder if any research was made on details of its hunting habits, especially stamina.

There is a famous story that great endurance of modern Pronghorn is evolutionary relic from them being hunted by Miracinonyx. If so, Miracinonyx would be endurance runner, completely different from the modern cheetah, which is a short-range sprinter.

I wonder if anatomy of Miracinonyx confirms it?

The last two populations of Asian cheetah outside Iran both lived along cliffs. One was in Yor-Oilan-Duz depression in Badkhys Plateau of Turkmenistan (the depression looks a lot like those called mahtesh in Israel), the other lived along the "chinks" (cliffs) which form the edges of Ust-Yurt Plateau immediately west from the Aral Sea. They fed on goitered gazelles on the surrounding plains and on wild sheep in the hills at the base of the cliffs. Of course, neither place is as "vertical" as the Grand Canyon.

I've always been skeptical about the pronghorn-cheetah idea. I think there is a much simpler explanation to pronghorn running abilities. You need a large speed advantage over pack predators such as wolves to be able to escape being chased from two-three directions at once.

By Vladimir Dinets (not verified) on 18 Oct 2010 #permalink

Are you sure that photo is of an immature Puma concolor? It looks more like an adult Puma yagouaroundi to me. Spotted jaguarundi are sometimes called "onza" in Mexican Spanish. I don't see how anyone could mistake a cat of the genus Puma for Miracinonyx. Their anatomy and ecology were very different.

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 18 Oct 2010 #permalink

I'm pretty sure both of those cats are pumas - which one are you referring to? 'Onza' is indeed used for jaguarundi in some areas, and not just for spotted ones (am only aware of spotted coats in juveniles: does anyone know if there are adult spotted jaguarundis on record?).

As for scepticism about Miracinonyx driving the evolution of pronghorns (comments 19 and 20), did you follow the comments here?

The upper color photo looks more like a jaguarundi to me than the lower black & white photo does. I've heard (no reference) that the genus Puma is rather closely related to Acinonyx, so the similarity to cheetahs may not be as far fetched as it appears. Acinonyx and Miracinonyx, however, weren't that closely related. I've also heard that there is a cryptic population of introduced jaguarundis in Florida. Adult jaguarundis sometime retain juvenile spotting, especially on the face & neck.

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 18 Oct 2010 #permalink

Okay, I've just done some reading to refresh my memory. It seems that Miracinonyx evolved from Puma-like ancestors during the Miocene and it's morphological & inferred ecological similarity to Acinonyx is homoplasious.

There's a reported sighting of a jaguarundi in Florida from 1907 but it seems that most sightings have been more recent, and are attributed to an intentional introduction in Levy County during the late 1940s. Sightings have been reported from eight Florida counties since this time, and also from coastal Alabama. However, since no road kills have been reported, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is skeptical about the existence of this feral population. I couldn't find any references to P. concolor/yagouaroundi hybrids but both species have the same number of chromosomes (38) so viable hybrids are likely. After all, mt. lion/ocelot, and domestic cat/jaguarundi, hybrids are said to occur. Perhaps spotted Florida panthers are mt. lion/jaguarundi hybrids, provided that jaguarundis actually occur in Florida.

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 18 Oct 2010 #permalink


It looks more like an adult Puma yagouaroundi to me.

That's no jaguarundi! For example, the shape of the head is wrong, the ears are too large, and the limbs are too long for jaguarundi. As for the colour: if there are (genuine and undisputed) photographs of similarly spotted adult jaguarundis I'd really like to see those; so, link, please.

domestic cat/jaguarundi

Are there really such confirmed hybrids? Reference, please.

Perhaps spotted Florida panthers are mt. lion/jaguarundi hybrids

If that's the case, it is quite remarkable that we haven't found any genetic evidence for such hybridisation yet. The Florida 'panther' population has been extremely closely monitored for years, and DNA samples have been taken from a (relatively speaking) huge proportion of its individuals.

That's no jaguarundi! For example, the shape of the head is wrong, the ears are too large, and the limbs are too long for jaguarundi.

The shape of the head looks more like a jagurundi than a cougar to me. But I agree with you about the limb length being too long for a jaguarundi. You're probably correct.

..if there are (genuine and undisputed) photographs of similarly spotted adult jaguarundis I'd really like to see those..

I've never seen or heard of a similarly spotted adult jaguarundi but have heard that adults sometimes retain juvenile spotting on their face, neck & underside. The retention of juvenile spotting isn't uncommon in other cat species and so isn't so very unlikely in jaguarundis. Why is it any more remarkable that a jaguarundi individual should retain juvenile spotting than that an adult mt. lion should do so?

domestic cat/jaguarundi

Are there really such confirmed hybrids? Reference, please.

Yesterday I was searching the web for reference to cougar/jaguarundi hybrids and saw a reference to domestic cat/jaguarundi hybrids (and also to cougar/ocelot & cougar/leopard hybrids) in one of the numerous cat hybrid websites. I don't remember which one and don't care to search for it all over again. Google "domestic cat/jaguarundi hybrid" & see if you can find it yourself.

Perhaps spotted Florida panthers are mt. lion/jaguarundi hybrids

If that's the case, it is quite remarkable that we haven't found any genetic evidence for such hybridisation yet.

Yes, and even more compelling is that the feral jaguarundi population, if it exists, is in northwestern Florida & coastal Alabama whereas the Florida panther persists further to the south, so there wouldn't be much chance for introgression between them. Cats are mobile, however, and if intergeneric hybrids can occur, certainly hybridization within the genus Puma is possible.

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 19 Oct 2010 #permalink

Okay, here's the reference:

A Jaguarundi x domestic cats is proposed by Mandala Exotic Cats. This is an unknown as the species may be too distantly related to produce viable offspring. The aim, if matings and offspring occur, is to produce a domestic cat whose conformation resembles the jaguarundi. Several years earlier a "Jaguarundi Curl" had been reported, but there was no confirmation of that hybrid.

The website discusses in detail hybrids between Geoffroy's Cat (Felis geoffroyii) & domestic cats. These hybrids are called "Safari Cats." While both these species are considered to belong to the same genus, they have a different chromosome number (36 & 38, respectively). Evenso, some of the F1 hybrids are fertile (Haldane's rule seems to apply), as are F2 backcrosses with the domestic cat. If cat species having different chromosome complements can produce fertile hybrid offspring, I would think that species such as the domestic cat & jaguarundi, which both possess 38 chromosomes, are capable of producing hybrid offspring.

This website, too, lists domestic cat/jaguarundi hybrids under the category of "Attempted or Unconfirmed Hybridisation":

Given the popularity of hybrid cats, it seems odd that no reference to mt.lion/jaguarundi crosses can be found.

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 19 Oct 2010 #permalink

Puma x jaguarundi hybrids must involve male jaguarundi, female puma, and a stepladder. ;)

LOL Jerzy. Like the horny little Chihuahua I once saw after a St. Bernard bitch in heat.

I hadn't been aware of all the hybrid cat enthusiasts, and the lengths they would go to, before this thread. In some crosses the parental species have quite different gestational periods, so that depending on which way the cross is made the kittens may be born prematurely or go too long before being born, in either case necessitating veterinary care. I wouldn't be surprised but what hybridizers wouldn't resort to artificial insemination &/or caesarean deliveries in order to effect some of their crosses. Some of the crosses I've read about yesterday & today would never occur in nature. If a puma/jaguarundi cross was ever to occur in the Florida wilds I bet you'd be right about it necessarily involving a male jaguarundi & female puma and even then, she'd probably kill him before letting him mate with her.

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 19 Oct 2010 #permalink

I had heard in the literature that Jaguarundi have spotted kittens. However, all the photos ive seen of juveniles are uniformly spotted (either in red or brown colour phases). Admittedly there are not many photos on the web of jaguarundi so it could be a variable trait. Id be very interested in any photographic evidence of spots in jaguarundi kittens as this pelage trait would then unit all the members of the Cheetah group (Cheetah, Jaguarundi, Puma). It would also allow us to make some inferences about extinct members (i.e. Miracinonyx).

By Ross Barnett (not verified) on 19 Oct 2010 #permalink


I have seen photos of puma/ocelot hybrids (they are among the most beautiful cats I have ever seen. Here is a link with a photo of an adult puma/ocelot hybrid:,image,5:831::270484;9.html.
To the best of my knowledge, jaguarundi kittens are never "spotted" in the sense that puma kittens are, although they can have a grizzled, salt & pepper coloration and be dark brown, reddish, or gray, or even solid black. The Cincinnati Zoo used to have a pair of all-black jaguarundis. Here is a link to a photo of a 3-week old jaguarundi. . You can see the grizzled pattern but it is not "spotted".
I am not aware of any puma/jaguarundi hybrids. Since pumas & jaguarundis are theoretically more closely related than pumas & ocelots, such a hybrid may be possible. But I have never seen one documented.

Strange - this pattern on ocelot-puma hybrid looks very much like that Chinese Asian Golden Cat tristis!

BTW - I don't understand from the text - these hybrids are born in captivity and parentage is certain?

The photos-animaux site doesn't claim that's a hybrid, it just says it's an ocelot. Or did I miss something?

By David Houston (not verified) on 19 Oct 2010 #permalink

The photo of the puma/ocelot hybrid is lumped together with the ocelot photos, but the text & the reference from messybeast label it a puma/ocelot hybrid. The body type & coloration (especially the face) clearly show mixed characteristics of puma & ocelot.

I'm not sure where, but I've seen this photo along with a couple others of the same cat in another article somewhere, that goes into more detail about the cat's parentage. I believe that there were two that survived in the litter.

They were captives of course, and deliberately crossbred as I recall. I doubt that puma/ocelot hybrids have ever occurred in the wild. The species are just too different, and cats are too solitary & territorial.

When I run across the article in my references, I'll post it or send it to Darren.

[from Darren: sorry, delayed by spam filter]


I've never seen or heard of a similarly spotted adult jaguarundi but have heard that adults sometimes retain juvenile spotting on their face, neck & underside.

The closest thing to a photograph of a spotted adult jaguarundi that I've been able to find is this. There would seem to be some very indistinct patterning on the hind leg, although it's hard to tell for sure. In any case, it is certainly not comparable to the conspicuous markings of the Belize animal in Darren's post.

Thanks for the link to that photo Dartian. For the past two days I've been searching the web, when I've had some spare time, for photos of jaguarundis & hybrid cats. I haven't seen any photos of spotted ones, either. Not even kittens. I did see a photo of an agouti jaguarundi and several with less detail but that looked grizzled. Yet nearly every source states that kittens are spotted until three to four months old. Some sources state that spotting can be retained in adults on the face, neck or underside but I have seen no photos of a spotted jaguarundi of any age. One source states that jaguarundi coat color is more variable than in any other cat and indeed, I've seen photos of them ranging from jet black to bright reddish orange. There's some suggestion that color is sexually dimorphic but I've also seen claims that all colors occur in both sexes. I have never seen a jaguarundi in the wild or seen a kitten.
The only jaguarundis I've seen were at the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, Az., years ago. This thread has sparked my interest in jaguarundis, perhaps because I've recently been reading about jaguars in New Mexico, where I live, and in Arizona. The likely existence of a feral population of jaguarundis in Florida & nearby locales in Georgia & Alabama I've found especially intriguing. I've also found information regarding cat karyotypes and hybridization fascinating. Thanks Darren, for the initial post, and thanks Dartian & others for your participation in the discussion.

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 20 Oct 2010 #permalink

I photographed jaguarundi tracks at Archbold Biological Station, Florida, a few years ago. People at the station were not impressed at all: they said they were well aware of jaguarundis in the area and had had a few sightings themselves.

[from Darren: sorry, delayed by spam filter]

Just saw a bicolored jaguarundi - head & neck distinctly lighter colored then rest of its body - on the Cryptomundo website:

Good discussion here: of the occurance of jaguarundi in Florida. Yet, despite this plethora of anecdotal evidence, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is skeptical:

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 20 Oct 2010 #permalink

Dr. Naish :

"Yes, the 'Onzas' were shown to be pumas[...]"

I am not a scientist but this reminds me of the Bornean Bay Cat's case. If I recall correctly, Bornean Bay Cat diverged from Asian Golden Cat well before Borneo separated from other Sunda Islands. To me this process could be applied too for cryptid "Onza"/Puma, because those latters are morphologically quite distinct, at least "Onza" should be considered as a distinct subspecies on the way to become a new species. But I am just speculating, I could be wrong as well...

Ref :

W. E. Johnson et al. (1999). "Molecular genetic characterisation of two insular Asian cat species, Bornean bay cat and Iriomote cat". In S.P. Wasser. Evolutionary theory and processes: Modern perspectives, Essays in honour of Eviator Nevo. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishing. pp. 223â248.


thanks Dartian & others for your participation in the discussion

You're welcome. But I'm not quite done yet. ;)


I photographed jaguarundi tracks at Archbold Biological Station, Florida

How could you tell that they belonged to a jaguarundi? Is there something diagnostic about the shape of jaguarundi tracks?

And what's your take on the identity of the feline in Krimeg's link in comment #39?

Dartian: jaguarundi tracks are generally similar to those of small bobcats, but they have two lobes and one "dent" on the rear edge of the heel, while bobcat tracks have three lobes and two "dents". Also, jags have shorter distance between footprints.

The cat in comment #39 definitely looks more like a small F. concolor than anything else to me. Long face, long body, no pattern. The ears are not pointed (contrary to what the text says). Whether it was really photographed in Georgia is another issue, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if it was, considering the number of sightings all over the former Eastern cougar range.

BTW, I have received at least 10 emails from people who claim to have seen large long-tailed black cats in the SE quarter of the US. All descriptions are very consistent, and the cats are always intermediate in size between a bobcat and a puma. The first such report was from a close friend of mine who saw one in Central Florida about 10 years ago (he's a former Siberian tiger researcher). Other reports were sent to me in the last 7 years, probably because of my Mexican black jaguar photo, but these cats are definitely not jaguars. I have no idea what they could be, but the number and consistency of reports are really impressive. I've also heard (privately) about such sightings being reported to various wildlife agencies in the area. Of course, being a good mainstream scientist, I despise all amateurs and don't believe in the existence of cryptozoologists, but this time I find it really difficult to dismiss all those sightings as non-zoologist idiots seeing raccoons in poor light :-)

"All descriptions are very consistent, and the cats are always intermediate in size between a bobcat and a puma."

Florida Panthers, while a subspecies of puma, are typically very much smaller than the "standard" North American puma. Their weight range is comparable to that of the Eurasian lynx - a small one wouldn't be very much bigger than a big bobcat (although bobcats in Florida are also smaller than they are in more northern latitudes). The pictures i've seen of Florida panthers also looked darker in colour than most other pumas. While there has been no "official" record of a melanistic puma, melanism in cats tends to occur in areas of dense swamp or rainforest - as well as leopards in India and Malysia and jaguars in the Amazon region, black bobcats occur more frequently in Florida than elsewhere, so if there *are* black pumas anywhere, i'd consider Forida panther populations (especially if the melanism is recessive, given that the Florida panthers are highly inbred), along with populations in forested areas of South America, to be the likeliest place to find them.

The last comment on that Cryptomundo post is interesting - an aberrant feral kitten that the commenter took in and adopted, that had characteristics of a Felis x Puma hybrid (although i'm not sure if such a hybrid could have "black and silver tabby" colouration, given that both Puma sp. are plain-coated). For some reason Cryptomundo won't let me create an account to post there, but it would be very interesting to contact LidoJaguarundi and ask if (s)he has any photos of said cat...

By stevethehydra (not verified) on 22 Oct 2010 #permalink

[from Darren: delayed by spam filter]

Stevethehydra :

"Florida panthers...Their weight range is comparable to that of the Eurasian lynx - a small one wouldn't be very much bigger than a big bobcat."

No,they grow much larger and heavier :…

Eurasian lynx :…

I came across this video on Youtube which I found quite intriguing, because the first "cat" pictured doesn't look like a classic Puma, even though it is seen from behind, it seems more "cursorial" :

BTW, great topic. :-)

All "black cat" sightings except one were not in Florida. Eastern cougars are generally not as small as Florida panthers, and are not very dark. There are no specimens or historical records of black F. concolor, even though all Florida population, for example, has mostly been tagged and handled. Why would small black cougars suddenly start showing up all over the SE US?

The only publication I've found by Pocock on spotted lions is an appendix to Gandar Dower's book (see my post at Why Evolution Is True:… ), and he did not name them in that appendix. I believe the name Leo maculatus (full species, not subspecies) was first proposed (in a rather off-handed way) by Heuvelmans in On the Track of Unknown Animals (English edition 1959, p. 372; I've not seen the French edition of 1955, which would have priority). I'd love to read your take on spotted lions, and any other references you might have found.

Vladimir Dinets :

Yeah, my apologies. I have figured it out later after posting my comment. As of now, I will think twice before posting a link like this one.;)

Sorry I am so late on this but...

According to every source I have read black cougars (Puma concolor) have not been verified. Has this changed? I was looking through a child's book on felids called "Wild Cats Past & Present" by John E. Becker, PhD.(C) 2008 Darby Creek Publishing. I got it mainly to look at Mark Hallett's paleoart when I came across this photo found on page 22.

According to the caption and text this is a black puma. Is this correct? The photos on this page are uncredited (the photo credits skip from page 19 to page 24). is this a puma or a leopard? It looks like the cat is in captivity based on the (admittedly blurry) background. If anyone give me more information about this cat I would greatly appreciate it.

P.S. Is it just me or is the petrograph on page 24 not a drawing of a felid at all but of a cacomistle (Bassariscus astutus)? Oh well, at least one of it's common names around Arizona is "miner's cat", LOL.


is this a puma or a leopard?

Judging by the head's shape and proportions, which look subtly wrong for a puma, it's a leopard. (Or possibly even a jaguar; it's a bit hard to tell for sure from that photo.)

Continuing weird color morph theme: anybody seen a rufous-brown chimpanzee? Older books say that chimps vary from black to grey to rufous.

The black cat shown in the pic that Tamara links to (comment 52) is definitely either a leopard or a jaguar, I think the latter. As for black pumas: their possible existence remain a constant source of discussion and disagreement in the community. Many sources state that truly melanistic pumas have been reported from South and Central America (all the standard cat books state this: e.g., Guggisberg 1975, Green 1991, Kitchener 1991, Alderton 1993), but few provide the details. A Costa Rican animal shot in 1959 and sometimes said to be melanistic is not definitely black according to still-surviving photos. Young & Goldman (1946, _The Puma: Mysterious American Cat_) wrote of a definite black puma shot in Brazil in 1843, though no photos exist. Tom Brakefield (1993, _Big Cats: Kingdom of Might_) had this case in mind when he noted that only one melanistic puma was on record.

It would seem then that melanism _is_ documented in pumas, but that it's incredibly rare and certainly not expected to pop up widely across the species' range.

I've never heard of brown chimpanzees - interesting.

Thanks Darren, I have seen the photo in Young & Goodman's book and while the cat is dark it seems to have a light underside. I have the photo I linked to in a book accompanying a documentary on Florida Panthers, again labeled a black puma, but could not find it and had to get a copy from the above book at the library instead in order to scan it - which is why it took so long to respond to this thread. Someone needs to tell these folks that this is not a puma.


anybody seen a rufous-brown chimpanzee? Older books say that chimps vary from black to grey to rufous.

Are you sure that those books meant hair colour and not skin colour?


I've never heard of brown chimpanzees - interesting.

Rosen et al. (1972) described a blonde(!) chimpanzee. Unfortunately, I don't have access to that paper and haven't seen it for myself - but for those who do have access, here's the reference:

Rosen, S.I., Rich, K. & Ommaya, A.K. 1972. Note on blonde chimpanzee. Folia Primatologica 18, 41-46.

I have it here (thanks to a great library).

Brief summary -
It was captured in the wild at less than one year of age, "no further details concerning the circumstances of this capture are known".
Male, apparently of subspecies Pan troglodytes verus
Some dark blue skin around the eyes, otherwise pretty pale skinned, "medium brown" eye color.
Hair - deep-reddish cheek tufts; reddish blonde frontally; typical dark chimpanzee hair in occipital and nuchal region; light yellow and brown hair from "approximately the level of the first thoracic vertebra and continue to the inferior margin of the ischium"; two axillary bands of brown hair across the dorsum. When first brought into captivity it was entirely "light golden brown", appearing almost albino; the first darkening was on the cheeks.

So not an albino, and sadly, location isn't known...

By William Miller (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

Thanks! So it is just occassional freaks.

Yes, thanks for that information, William! In which zoo was that chimpanzee living?

First it was kept by a trainer and exhibited as an act, then Baltimore Zoo, then Toledo Zoo, then kept at the NIH.

By William Miller (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

I just saw a jaguarundi yesterday, Nov 5, 2010 on Manville Rd, less than a mile from Sandario. I didn't even know these animals existed so it's pretty exciting. This is pretty close to the Sonoran Desert Museum so I wonder if it escaped. It was very dark brown in color and lept accross the road about 50 feet in front of me. Any one missing a jaguarundi in these parts?

By Tamera Singler (not verified) on 06 Nov 2010 #permalink

I'm sorry I forgot to mention this sighting was in Marana, NW of Tucson Arizona.

By Tamera Singler (not verified) on 06 Nov 2010 #permalink

Hi, I have questions about the Miracinonyx trumani. The trumani that evolved to a mountain lion. Is it possible for one of these cats to have long hair? We have a lioness in the area that has elongated spots, long hair, red color, short, short tail (not like a mountain lions tail at all). I am at a loss with this cat. I don't know what she stems from. I also question dominant and recessive genes. Please correct me where I'm wrong. Idea: short hair-dominant, long hair-recessive, brown/cream color coat-dominant, red coat recessive, tail (approx 1 foot?), elongated spots that are almost like stripes, her nose is broader in width. This really isn't a joke; I'm not the only one that knows about her. Habitat; mountain at
36°42â08.98â N/119°24â38.93âW elev. 1061 ft.
At one time I thought she was a cross between a jaguar and a mountain lion. I was trying to explain the spots/stripes. The long hair has not explanation I can find accept acclamation to temperature. She had two cubs in 2004 and they look like regulare lions however the female is small. Yah, I know they generally are smaller than a male. I have tried for two years to get a picture of her with no luck. She really is different, I know I need a picture but I haven't been able to convince her of this. Probably because she's been shot at a lot for her calf eating problem. Please help me out with this one, I have not clue as to what do do. I have tried to find her DNA with no luck. I called U.C.Davis, the genetics lab doesn't test wild felids. I was given a phone # to a cancer lab that may be able to help. Would it be possible to get any clue from her DNA through using her daughters DNA? I can do this if it would work. What do you think?

The trumani that evolved to a mountain lion.

No. Puma and Miracinonyx are sister-groups, not an ancestor-descendant pair. They existed at the same time till M. died out.

Unfortunately I can't help you with your actual question; and the hair length of M. is unknown.

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 17 Jan 2011 #permalink

Mikki - you simply must get photos of this animal to convince us that you're on to something (are you sure you're not misidentifying a known species? Your description sounds odd: are you really describing a puma-sized animal?). If you do get DNA (what source do you have in mind - hairs, droppings?), yes, there are people who can test it, but I would say you need to demonstrate to begin with that there's something worth investigating here.

Thanks for getting back to me. Yes, this is the problem I have come up on, pictures. That's why I asked if her daughters DNA could be tested to see if there are any deciding factors there. I know where I can find her but not the spotted lion. The longer red hair throws everyone. I had two friends at our place for a branding and they saw her. They work for the sheriffs department. They didn't know what the heck she was either. One took a shot at her because he has small children and she went into his yard. He missed but we haven't seen hr since, around March 2010. Yes she is a puma sized animal. DNA - droppings. Another rancher that hunts game on safari didn't even know what she was. Others are interested in what you think. What can you tell me about chromosomes and other cats breeding? Is she a cross between something? There is one source in the area that could be responsible for this but since I don't know for sure I can't state anything. However, there are many cat breeds there including jaguarundi. I really am curious about why her hair is long when it should be short. Any thoughts?

Ok, I forgot something. If, "No. Puma and Miracinonyx are sister-groups, not an ancestor-descendant pair. They existed at the same time till M. died out." Does this have anything to do with trumani? Are we looking at recessive genes? What about bobcat and mountain lion? Is this a (wierd)possibility (hair length/tail)with chromosomes?

See comment 55 above. The Costa Rican animal I referred to is the same one pictured (showing hanging, head) and mentioned by Dale.