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Panther is used as a generic species name to describe a leopard or jaguar, especially an individual who is melanistic, i.e. a black panther. Such individuals are an example of a mutation, not a separate species. Their spots can be seen in the right light, but essentially panthers look entirely black (or, at least, very dark brown or grey).
Panther is also sometimes used to refer to a cougar or mountain lion (a species which has no confirmed melanistic variant), particularly if it is a member of the subspecies commonly known as the Florida panther.
The above describes the most common usages of the term "panther", but etymologically speaking it could be properly applied to any member of the genus Panthera (which would exclude the cougar since it belongs to a different genus). Indeed it is sometimes used to refer generically to any big cat of that genus, although "pantherine" can be used instead.
The white panther is a rare occurrence, which is used for individuals, like a white cougar, white leopard or white jaguar. They may be the result of albinism (lack of pigmentation) or leucism (partial lack of pigmentation). Black panthers in comparison are the result of melanism. Unlike black panthers, white panthers have not been selectively bred.
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