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Why do leopards have spots?
Question Date: 2004-12-09
Answer 1:

Spots, stripes, and other markings help to break up the outline of objects. That's why hunters and soldiers wear camouflage and why the military uses camouflage patterns on vehicles. Most of the time, leopards are in areas where there are many patches of light and shadow. If they were one solid color, they'd really stand out. By breaking up their pattern, they are less obvious.

There's a great site on this at: natureworks

Check out this great black and white shot of a leopard at night. You can see how patches of light and dark hide its shape: click here

Why do you think house-cats can be so many different colors? Why would lions be pretty much solid colored?

Answer 2:

The coloration on leopards and many other animals has evolved because it helps them survive better. In the case of leopards, the alternating dark and light blends into the shadows and sunlight patches in the grasslands or forest where they live and makes it easier for them to sneak up on the the animals they hunt.

The leopard with the type of spots that makes them blend in the best, will probably catch more food and live long enough to pass that type of spots on to their young Of course, being very fast runners also helps. Check out this website to see more kinds of cats with spots. click here

Answer 3:

Leopards probably have spots because the spots help camouflage them in the foliage of their habitats. (I say "probably," because humans didn't actually observe leopards getting their spots, so all we can do is come up with theories about why they have them.) Here's how it probably happened:

The leopard's ancestors were cats with some other pattern. Some leopard got a mutation (a "mistake" in its genes, which are the chemicals in all cells that are the blueprints for making up our bodies). This mutation happened, by complete accident, to cause spots to develop on the leopard's fur. The spotted leopard could hide in the bushes better, so it had an advantage over the other leopards. When it reproduced, its kittens also had spots, since mutations are passed down from parents to offspring, so they also had an advantage over the others. Eventually, spotted leopards ended up making more offspring, so the leopard population gradually changed from cats with no spots to cats with spots. That's how evolution works, and it all starts with random mutations that happen to be beneficial.

Answer 4:

Spots and stripes are both a type of camouflage called disruptive coloration. The spots and stripes break up what would otherwise be a solid color, making the animal look less like a large target and help it blend into the background. Spots are especially useful for hiding in long grass.

Another way that spots and stripes work as camouflage is by confusing the predator. If a predator spots a zebra, say, and recognizes it as prey, chances are the predator will fixate on the stripes as it stalks the zebra.

When the zebra senses the predator and runs away, the white and black stripes blur into a gray background and the predator immediately looses its target. Predators are usually very good at sensing movement, but the initial split second of confusion may be enough time to allow the zebra to escape. If you ever get a chance to go snorkeling or diving in tropical waters, you'll notice that most of the colorful butterfly fish on coral reefs have disruptive camouflage (either spots or stripes or both).

Lastly, a stripe covering the eye and lots of dark spots on the body help hide the eyes of prey, so the predator may become confused about which end is the head. Why would this be a good thing to hide from the predator?

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