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Spot the Difference: Twin Jaguar Cubs Born with Different Coats

Image by ZooBorns via Youtube

This jaguar mother had two very unique cubs. Both cubs look very different to each other, yet they are in fact twins.

The Family

Image by ZooBorns via YouTube

The mother jaguar is completely black. She is absolutely gorgeous. Her two new cubs were born recently and, when they popped out, onlookers were in for quite a surprise. Generally, we all think twin jaguar cubs would look similar right? Wrong! These two look completely different.

Cub #1

Image by ZooBorns via YouTube

The one cub looks exactly like what we all think jaguar cubs would look like. The standard light coat with black spots. Still, this is a bit of a surprise since the mom is so dark.

Cub #2

Image by ZooBorns via YouTube

The other cub, however, is dark like their mother. At first glance, its looks pitch black. But actually its coat is very dark brown with the usual black spots.

Playful Cuteness Overload

Image by ZooBorns via YouTube

The newborn cubs are captivating. It looks like they are learning to open their eyes for the first time. The cubs are so small, when their mother comes over gently to lick them, her tongue looks almost the same size as the cubs!

Watching these two cubs play with each other and their mother, is one of the sweetest things. It can brighten anyone’s day and warm the coldest of hearts.

A Happy Family

Image by ZooBorns via YouTube

The jaguar mother looks very happy with her two children. The original clip can be found here.

YouTube video
“Tenerife’s Jaguar Twins,” Source: YouTube, Uploaded: ZooBorns

Why Do They Look Different?

Close up of a Jaguar walking on a river bank, South Pantanal, Brazil. Image via Depositphotos

The difference in jaguar pigmentation, where some jaguars are born black and others have lighter, more typical spotted coats, is primarily due to genetic variation. This variation is driven by a specific gene that influences the coloration of their fur.


black jaguar
Singer Ron%2C U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Melanism is a genetic trait that results in an increased amount of black or dark pigmentation in the fur of an animal. In jaguars, melanism is caused by a mutation in the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) gene. This mutation leads to the production of more eumelanin (the black or dark brown pigment) rather than pheomelanin (the red or yellow pigment).

Melanistic jaguars appear almost entirely black, but if you look closely or under certain lighting conditions, you can still see the characteristic rosette patterns of their fur.


Male Panthera jaguar
Male jaguar drinking water. Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Non-melanistic jaguars have the typical golden-yellow or tawny coat with black rosettes and spots. This coloration is what most people commonly associate with jaguars. These jaguars have the standard expression of the MC1R gene, which does not produce the excess eumelanin that results in a black coat.

Inheritance of Coat Color

Image via Depositphotos

In jaguars, the gene for a black coat (melanism) is dominant over the gene for the typical spotted coat. So, if a jaguar gets one black coat gene from one parent, it will be black. Only jaguars with two spotted coat genes will have the typical spotted fur. However, this dominance does not increase the frequency of black jaguars observed in the wild.


jaguar cub
Image by Joshua J. Cotten via Unsplash

Melanistic jaguars might have a selective advantage in certain environments, such as dense forests or during nighttime hunting, where their dark coat offers better camouflage.

Population Distribution

Jaguar – one of four ‘big cats’ in the Panthera genus, along with the tiger, lion, and leopard. Image via Depositphotos

The frequency of melanistic individuals can vary depending on the habitat. In regions where dense forest cover is more prevalent, melanistic jaguars might be more common.

Black Jaguar vs. Panther

A black jaguar on a tree. Image via Depositphotos

A black jaguar is a specific type of melanistic jaguar, while “panther” is a general term that can refer to either a black jaguar or a black leopard depending on the geographic location. In the Americas, “panther” often refers to a black jaguar. In Africa and Asia, “panther” typically refers to a black leopard, which is another species exhibiting melanism.

Wrapping Up

Panther also known as a Black Jaguar. Image via Depositphotos

Thank you for reading along with me. I hope you enjoyed the cuteness at much as I did!

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