An exploration of our Earth's ever-captivating fauna through musings on the bizarre side of Zoology, Cryptozoology, Paleontology, and Paleoanthropology

Friday, May 24, 2013

Possible Genetic Evidence for Texas Panthers and a Problem of Poor Scientific Attitude

A magnification of the unidentified hair from Michael Mayes and a painting by William Rebsamen.
In February, I shared an article from my research associate Michael Mayes's site Texas Cryptid Hunter. In the article, Mr. Mayes wrote about a report which he received from a man who claimed to have hit an animal which looked like a black panther with his car near Madisonville, Texas. The animal was reported to have a large body which was large enought to dent the car that hit it, a feline face, and reflective blue eyes. Intriguingly, tufts of black hair were allegedly collected from the grill and bumper of the car by the witness, and were sent to Michael Mayes. Michael consulted a friend of his who is an experienced hunter, trapper, and naturalist and has a degree in Animal Science from Tarleton State University to analyze the hair. Although he is not a professional hair analyst, Michael's friend owns his own microscope and has taught himself to quickly identify the hair of most common American mammals.
Magnification of one of the hair shafts from Michael Mayes's blog.
Could this be the evidence that American black panther investigators, such as myself, have waited for?

Analysis of the hair had focused on whether the hair could have been a deliberate hoax or if the witness could have belonged to a large domestic dog, large coyote, feral hog, or a mountain lion which was misidentified by the witness. After these possibilities were ruled out, the analyst came to an intriguing realization and sent Michael Mayes this:
“It looks a whole lot like these leopard hairs. These are using a special microscope, so they look a bit different than what I'm seeing, but the structure is the same. Look at the medulla running through the center of the shaft. Notice how they look like single file stacked disks? That's a uniserial pattern. You don't see that in dogs. The fleece hairs look like this, except that the medulla is black and the cortex and cuticle are dark brown. Which would make the hair appear black. See the very small notches on the side of the hair that look like they are overlapping at pretty even intervals? That is the cuticle. Your fleece hairs have a similar pattern.”
Michael's friend continued to analyze the hairs through resources such as the “Atlas and Key to the Hair of Terrestrial Texas Mammals”, yet did not change his mind that the hairs came from a species of felid. This very intriguing conclusion suggests that the animal which the witness allegedly hit was possibly one of the cryptozoological "black panthers" which are frequently reported in Texas and other parts of North America (so frequently that several people whom I have communicated with do not think of the cats as abnormal for their area). The conclusion also prompted Michael to start sending emails to Texas biological departments regarding the possibility of further examination, although he was greatly disappointed by the responses which he received.
A magnification of one of the guard hairs which Michael received from a witness who allegedly hit a panther with his car.
Disappointingly, most of the replies to Michael's emails were either nonexistent or were lectures on the "fact" that black panthers are not present in North America. Michael has found himself in an ironic situation, as biologists who say black panthers cannot exist due to there being no evidence are not accepting his offer of possible evidence to analyze. This frustrates me, as any scientist who will not accept the possible evidence which they ask for is being ignorant and is not conducting what science is about: testing hypotheses. But I do hope that a brave, academic analyst will step up to examine these hair samples and possibly conclude if these intriguing hairs are the best evidence for American black panthers yet (or not). For further information regarding the preliminary analysis and to see more images of the hair samples, please read this article by Michael Mayes:



  1. It would not be too unusual if they were hairs from a black jaguar: it has already been documented that black jaguars can wander over the border from Mexico (one was shot in Arizona circa 1945). However if they are actually black leopard hairs then most likely they come from one that has gotten loose from captivity somehow.
    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  2. There is also an animal in South TX called a jaguarundi. They are large black/brown cats about as big as a medium sized dog. They have rather short legs which earned them the nickname of "weasel cat".

    They are rare and the fish and game folks say there are only a few of them around and that all populations are known. I know this is not true as do many Texans who have seen the cats. It is simply easier for the state to say the animals don't exist except in already protected areas than to admit they are around and have to make new regulations to protect them.

    Anyway, black jaguar could be the mystery animal, certainly not impossible. But if I were a betting person I would bet on the wary jaguarundi. Hopefully DNA study of the hairs will eventually be done. Just don't wait on the state to step up.

  3. As someone who saw what I'm pretty sure was a jaguarundi in SE Oklahoma, I would like to politely inquire of scientists how they are pretty sure they have nailed down all the populations of a predator on four legs that MOVES.

    Knee surgeons just found a new ligament in the knee. Whale researchers just found a new organ in the mouth of the bowhead whale - a blood-engorged organ TWELVE FEET LONG. These disciplines did not exactly start yesterday.

    Allow me some skepticism, scientists, and please try to figure out what the heck is going on here. Hit it right on the head, Jay: to blather on about no evidence and then tell me one won't look at evidence presented appears, shall we say just to be polite, problematical in the extreme.


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