Temporal range: 25–Recent Ma Burdigalian to Subatlantic.
|Top to bottom: tiger, lion, jaguar, and leopard.|
| Felis pardus|
Panthera is a genus of the family Felidae (cats), which contains four well-known living species: the tiger, the lion, the jaguar, and the leopard. The genus comprises about half of the Pantherinae subfamily, the big cats. The word panther, while technically referring to all members of the genus, is commonly used to specifically designate the black panther, a melanistic jaguar or leopard, and the Florida panther, a subspecies of cougar (Puma concolor coryi).
Only the four Panthera cat species have 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 that the ability to roar is due to other morphological features, especially of the larynx. The snow leopard, Uncia uncia, which is sometimes included within Panthera, does not roar. Although it has an incomplete ossification of the hyoid bone, it lacks the special morphology of the larynx.
- See also: Panther (legendary creature)
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the origin of the word is unknown. A folk etymology derives the word from the Greek πάν pan- ("all") and thēr ("beast of prey") because they can hunt and kill almost everything. It has also been proposed that it comes ultimately into Greek from a Sanskrit word meaning "the yellowish animal" or "whitish-yellow". The Greek word πάνθηρ, pánthēr, referred to all spotted Felidae generically.
Like much of the family Felidae, Panthera has been subject to much debate and taxonomic revision. At the base of the genus is probably the extinct felid Viretailurus schaubi, which is also regarded as an early member of the genus Puma. Panthera likely evolved in Asia, but the definite roots of the genus remain unclear. The divergence of the pantherine cats (including the living genera Panthera, Uncia, and Neofelis) from the subfamily Felinae (including all other living cat species) has been ranked between six and ten million years ago. The fossil record points to the emergence of Panthera just 2 to 3.8 million years ago.
The snow leopard was seen originally at the base of the Panthera, but newer molecular studies suggest that it is nestled within Panthera and is a sister species of the tiger. Thus, many place the snow leopard within the genus Panthera, but there is currently no consensus as to whether the snow leopard should retain its own genus, Uncia or be moved to Panthera uncia. Since 2008, the IUCN Red List has listed it as Panthera uncia, with Uncia uncia identified as a synonym. A prehistoric feline, probably closely related to the modern jaguar, is Panthera gombaszogensis, often called European jaguar. The earliest evidence of this species, obtained at what is now Olivola in Italy, dates from 1.6 million years ago.
The clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), which was divided in 2007 to distinguish the Bornean clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), is generally placed at the basis of the Panthera group but is not included in the genus Panthera itself.
A study based on mitochondrial genomes suggests that the phylogeny can be represented as Neofelis nebulosa (Panthera tigris (Panthera onca (Panthera pardus, (Panthera leo, Panthera uncia)))). About Panthera separated from other felid species and then evolved into the several species of the genus. N. nebulosa appears to have diverged about , P. tigris about , P. uncia about and P. pardus about . Mitochondrial sequence data from fossils suggest that American lions (P. atrox) are a sister lineage to Eurasian cave lions (P. l. spelaea), diverging about .
Species, subspecies, and populations
There have been many subspecies of all four Panthera species suggested; however, many of the leopard and lion subspecies are questionable. Recently it has been proposed that all sub-Saharan populations of leopards are of the same leopard subspecies and that all sub-Saharan populations of lions likewise belong to the same lion subspecies, as they do not have sufficient genetic distinction between them. Some prehistoric lion subspecies have been described from historical evidence and fossils. They may have been separate species.
The "black panther" is not a distinct species but is just the common name for black (melanistic) specimens of the genus, most often encountered in jaguar and leopard species.
(Extinct species and subspecies are indicated with the symbol †)
- Genus Panthera
- Panthera atrox - American lion or North American cave lion †
- Panthera crassidens (probably identical with another felid taxon) †
- Panthera gombaszoegensis (European jaguar) †
- Panthera leo (lion)
- Panthera leo spelaea - Eurasian cave lion †
- Panthera leo azandica - North East Congo lion
- Panthera leo bleyenberghi - Southwest African Lion or Katanga lion
- Panthera leo europaea - European lion †
- Panthera leo fossilis - Early Middle Pleistocene European cave lion †
- Panthera leo hollisteri - Congo lion
- Panthera leo kamptzi
- Panthera leo krugeri - Transvaal Lion, South African Lion, or Southeast African lion
- Panthera leo leo - Barbary lion, Biblical lion, Middle Eastern lion; extinct in the wild
- Panthera leo melanochaita - Cape lion †
- Panthera leo massaica - Masai lion
- Panthera leo nubica - East African lion - synonym for P. leo, not a subspecies
- Panthera leo nyanzae
- Panthera leo persica - Asiatic lion
- Panthera leo roosevelti - Abyssinian lion - synonym for P. l. massaica, not a subspecies
- Panthera leo sinhaleyus - Sri Lanka lion or Ceylon lion. †
- Panthera leo somaliensis - Somali lion - synonym for P. leo, not a subspecies
- Panthera leo senegalensis - West African lion, or Senegal lion
- Panthera leo vereshchagini - East Siberian and Beringian cave lion †
- Panthera leo verneyi - Kalahari lion - currently no synonym
- Panthera onca (jaguar)
- Panthera onca arizonensis
- Panthera onca centralis
- Panthera onca goldmani
- Panthera onca hernandesii
- Panthera onca onca
- Panthera onca palustris
- Panthera onca paraguensis
- Panthera onca peruviana
- Panthera onca veracrucis
- Panthera onca mesembrina - Pleistocene South American jaguar †
- Panthera onca augusta - Pleistocene North American jaguar†
- Panthera palaeosinensis (Pleistocene pantherine - probably ancestral to the tiger) †
- Panthera pardoides (a primitive pantherine - probably identical with Panthera schaubi) †
- Panthera pardus (leopard)
- Panthera pardus adersi (Zanzibar leopard) - synonym for P. p. pardus, not a subspecies
- Panthera pardus delacouri (Indo-Chinese leopard)
- Panthera pardus fusca (Indian leopard)
- Panthera pardus jarvesi (Judean Desert leopard) - not even a synonym
- Panthera pardus japonensis (North China leopard)
- Panthera pardus jarvisi (Sinai leopard) - synonym for P. p. nimr, not a subspecies
- Panthera pardus kotiya (Sri Lanka leopard)
- Panthera pardus melas (Java leopard)
- Panthera pardus nimr (Arabian leopard)
- Panthera pardus orientalis (Amur leopard)
- Panthera pardus panthera (Barbary leopard) - synonym for P. p. pardus, not a subspecies
- Panthera pardus pardus (African leopard)
- Panthera pardus pernigra (Nepalese leopard) - synonym for P. p. fusca, not a subspecies
- Panthera pardus saxicolor (Persian leopard)
- Panthera pardus sickenbergi (European leopard) †
- Panthera pardus tulliana (Anatolian leopard)
- Panthera (Viretailurus) schaubi (Owen's panther † - may not be a pantherine)
- Panthera schreuderi (prehistoric felid † - probably junior synonym of European jaguar )
- Panthera tigris (tiger)
- Panthera tigris altaica (Siberian tiger)
- Panthera tigris amoyensis (South China tiger)
- Panthera tigris balica (Balinese tiger) †
- Panthera tigris corbetti (Indochinese tiger)
- Panthera tigris jacksoni (Malayan tiger) 
- Panthera tigris sondaica (Javan tiger) †
- Panthera tigris sumatrae (Sumatran tiger)
- Panthera tigris tigris (Bengal tiger)
- Panthera tigris trinilensis (Trinil tiger) †
- Panthera tigris virgata (Caspian tiger) †
- Panthera toscana (Tuscany lion or Tuscany jaguar † - probably junior synonym of European jaguar)
- Panthera uncia or Uncia uncia (Snow leopard)
- Panthera youngi (a prehistoric Chinese lion-like felid) †
- Panthera zdanskyi †
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|year= / |date= mismatch(help)
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|This article is part of Project Mammal Genera, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on each genus, including made-up genera.|