WEDNESDAY, Oct. 20 (HealthDay News) -- A new British study
reveals why leopards have spots.
British researchers matched the markings of 35 species of wild
cats to a mathematical model of pattern development in order to
learn more about what drives the evolution of the cats'
Patterning -- especially irregular or complex patterns -- is
more likely among leopards and other cats that live in dense
habitats, in the trees, and are active at low light levels. This
suggests that this type of patterning evolved for camouflage, said
the University of Bristol team.
They also noted that these patterns can evolve and disappear
These findings explain why black leopards are common but there
are no black cheetahs. Unlike cheetahs, leopards live in a wide
variety of habitats and have varied behavioral patterns. Because of
this, atypical colors and patterns have become stable in
Of the 35 wild cat species included in the study, only tigers
always had vertically elongated patterns, which are not associated
with a grassland habitat, as might be expected. But tigers appear
well camouflaged, which raises questions about why vertical stripes
are not more common among wild cats, the researchers said.
The study is published Oct. 20 in the journal
Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The African Wildlife Foundation has more about