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Panthera pardus, Leopard
Dr. Pamela Owen - The University of Texas at Austin
Panthera pardus
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Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History (LACM 11704)

Image processing: Ms. Farrah Welch
Image processing: Dr. Ted Macrini
Publication Date: 11 Feb 2002


Panthera pardus, the leopard, is widely distributed in Africa and tropical and southwestern Asia. It may be found in environments ranging from desert to tropical rainforest. Although more tolerant of human settlement than other large predators, P. pardus has become vulnerable to population fragmentation because of human persecution, the fur trade, and habitat loss. Panthera pardus is listed on CITES Appendix I; endangered status has been given to P. p. japonensis (North Chinese leopard), P. p. kotiya (Sri Lankan leopard), P. p. melas (Javan leopard), P. p. nimr (South Arabian leopard), P. p. orientalis (Amur leopard), P. p. panthera (North African), P. p. saxicolor (North Persian leopard), and P. p. tulliana (Anatolian leopard) by the U.S. and IUCN. All other populations are threatened.

Panthera pardus

Panthera pardus is a member of the pantherine lineage, which also includes P. leo (lion), P. tigris (tiger), P. onca (jaguar), Neofelis nebulosa (clouded leopard), and Uncia uncia (snow leopard). Fossils of their most recent common ancestor have yet to be identified, but mitochondrial gene sequence data suggest that species divergence began 6 million years ago. Phylogenetic analyses of the subspecies of P. pardus indicate an African origin, which corroborates the paleontological evidence. The earliest record of P. pardus is from Laetoli, Tanzania, with a date of roughly 3.8 million years before present. By 900,000 years ago, P. pardus reached Eurasia.

Leopards cache large kills (e.g., a 50 kg [110 lb.] impala) by dragging the carcass into cover before commencing to feed. This behavior has made Panthera pardus a significant contributor to the hominid-bearing bone deposits in South African caves. In fact, a cranium from Swartkrans of a juvenile hominid, Australopithecus (Paranthropus) robustus, has puncture marks matching the spacing of the lower canines of P. pardus. For a leopard to carry large prey into a tree or cave, it requires powerful head and neck activating musculature. The occiput of P. pardus has deeply incised scars demarcating the insertion areas of well-developed biventer cervicis (elevates neck and head) and the rectus capitis dorsalis major and medius musculature (head elevators).

About the Species

This specimen, a male, was collected from the Northwest Territories, Kenya by J. A. Davidson in 1959. It was made available to The University of Texas High-Resolution X-ray CT Facility for scanning courtesy of Drs. Blaire Van Valkenburgh and Jessica Theodor, Department of Organismic Biology, Ecology, and Evolution, University of California, Los Angeles. Funding for scanning was provided by Dr. Van Valkenburgh and by a National Science Foundation Digital Libraries Initiative grant to Dr. Timothy Rowe of The University of Texas at Austin. This leopard is one of several felid carnivorans included in ongoing research of respiratory turbinates by Drs. Van Valkenburgh and Theodor.

About this Specimen

The specimen was scanned by Matthew Colbert and Richard Ketcham on 6 December 2000 along the coronal axis for a total of 477 slices, each slice 0.5 mm thick with an interslice spacing of 0.5 mm. The dataset displayed was reduced for optimal Web delivery from the original, much higher resolution CT data.

About the


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Van Valkenburgh, B., J. Theodor, A. Friscia, and T. Rowe. 2001. Respiratory turbinates of carnivorans revealed by CT scans: a quantitative comparison. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 21:110A.


Panthera pardus species accounts provided by the IUCN Cat Specialist Group:

The brain of Panthera pardus (Comparative Mammalian Brain Collections website)

Panthera pardus on The Animal Diversity Web (The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology)

Panthera pardus on the Cyber Zoomobile

Panthera pardus on Big Cats Online

Felidae on the Cyber Zoomobile

& Links

None available.


To cite this page: Dr. Pamela Owen, 2002, "Panthera pardus" (On-line), Digital Morphology. Accessed July 25, 2024 at http://digimorph.org/specimens/Panthera_pardus/.

©2002-20019 - UTCT/DigiMorph Funding by NSF