Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why the Leopard Got Its Spots

A new study shows why leopards and other big cats are spotted, striped or melanistic — all black. In short, big cats' patterning and pattern attributes evolved in relation to their ecology and behaviors. This is evolution in action: if you stand out by color or texture you get eaten and your species becomes extinct. Blend in and you thrive.

Proc. R. Soc. London Ser. B 10.1098/rspb.2010.1734 (2010).


  1. Here is my favorite article on the reaction-diffusion which leads to the patterning:

    Murray, J. D. Scient. Am. 258, 80−87 (1988).

  2. The seminal paper on chemical morphogenesis by Alan Turing (1952).

    And not just leopards, according to Wolfram (1983, 2002).

  3. Not leopards but the gene (Agouti) governing color patterns in mice has been determined.

    They showed that small changes in the activity of a single pigmentation gene in embryos can generate big differences in adult color pattern.