10×14 watercolor enhanced colored pencil on Arches Hot Press. Original unavailable and in a private collection in New Jersey.
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Melanistic Jaguars In jaguars, the mutation is dominant hence black jaguars can produce both black and spotted cubs, but spotted jaguars only produce spotted cubs when bred together. In leopards, the mutation is recessive and some spotted leopards can produce black cubs (if both parents carry the gene in hidden form) while black leopards always breed true when mated together. In stuffed mounted specimens, black leopards often fade to a rusty color, but black jaguars fade to chocolate brown. The black jaguar was considered a separate species by indigenous peoples.
In Harmsworth Natural History (1910), WH Hudson writes:
The jaguar is a beautiful creature, the ground-colour of the fur a rich golden-red tan, abundantly marked with black rings, enclosing one or two small spots within. This is the typical coloring, and it varies little in the temperate regions; in the hot region the Indians recognize three strongly marked varieties, which they regard as distinct species – the one described; the smaller jaguar, less aquatic in his habits and marked with spots, not rings; and, thirdly, the black variety. They scout the notion that their terrible “black tiger” is a mere melanic variation, like the black leopard of the Old World and the wild black rabbit. They regard it as wholly distinct, and affirm that it is larger and much more dangerous than the spotted jaguar; that they recognize it by its cry; that it belongs to the terra firma rather than to the water-side; finally, that black pairs with black, and that the cubs are invariably black. Nevertheless, naturalists have been obliged to make it specifically one with Felis onca, the familiar spotted jaguar, since, when stripped of its hide, it is found to be anatomically as much like that beast as the black is like the spotted leopard.
The gene is incompletely dominant. Individuals with two copies of the gene are darker (the black background color is more dense) than individuals with just one copy whose background color may appear to be dark charcoal rather than black.
A black jaguar called Diablo has been accidentally crossed with a lioness named Lola at Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, Barrie, Canada resulting in a charcoal colored black jaglion female as well as a tan coloured spotted jaglion male. It therefore cannot be said that the melanistic gene is dominant over lion coloration.
The inclusion of the United States in the list is based on occasional sightings in the southwest, particularly in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. In the early 1900s, the jaguar’s range extended as far north as Southern California and western Texas. The jaguar is a protected species in the United States under the Endangered Species Act, which has stopped the shooting of the animal for its pelt. In 2004, wildlife officials in Arizona photographed and documented jaguars in the south of the state. For any permanent population to thrive in Arizona, protection from killing, an adequate prey base, and connectivity with Mexican populations are essential. (info from Wikipedia)