Welcome once again dear readers you’ve joined us for the last leg of our epic journey in Science Goes Wild, which is the 3-part The Truth About Cats And Dogs. This week we’re in Manchester’s China Town, where Ryan is tucking into an all you can eat buffet (at a very competitive price) and so we’ve got just enough time to talk to you about big cats in the animal world. We’d like to point out that once again there’s no connection between cats and our location this week.
The reason we’re looking at cats is because this week we’re focusing on Marvel Comics characters the Black Panther and Tigra! So before Ryan gives himself a heart attack by popping another pancake roll in his mouth, let’s get started!
WHO ARE BLACK PANTHER AND TIGRA?
Black Panther is the Marvel Comics superhero created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966 for Fantastic Four #52. As for Tigra (also a Marvel Comics character), she first appeared in Giant-Size Creatures #1 in 1974, created by Tony Isabella and Don Perlin.
ARE THEY CAT PEOPLE, OR PEOPLE WHO LIKE WILD CATS?
They’re a bit of both. Black Panther is a man who dresses in a costume to make him appear a bit like a wild cat, whereas Tigra is a woman who was mutated and so looks like a wild cat.
SO TELL ME ALL ABOUT BLACK PANTHER AND TIGRA THEN.
Black Panther is the alter-ego of T’Challa, the leader of the African nation of Wakanda. Although he’s a superhero in the Marvel Universe, the name Black Panther refers to a rank with the Wakandan Panther clan and at one point in time he had a mystical connection to the Wakandan Panther god! As Black Panther, T’Challa has increased strength, speed and stamina and his costume is made from a special metal called Vibranium, which you will remember we looked at in the original The Science Of Superheroes.
As for Tigra, her alter-ego is Greer Grant Nelson and she originally started off her career as a costumed hero called the Cat, before she was transformed into the more cat-like Tigra. Instead of dressing like a cat, Greer actually became a cat, a sort of female tiger, which included having razor sharp claws, a tail and heightened cat-like senses.
SO WHAT MAKES WILD CATS LIKE BLACK PANTHERS AND TIGERS SPECIAL?
Right well first up let's just clear up a couple of things, as this all could get a little confusing. Both black panthers and tigers are wild cats, however there is a type of small cat known as the wildcat which is completely different animal altogether that is native to Europe and parts of Asia and Africa. So moving forward for the remainder of this chapter it's probably best if I refer to black panthers and tigers as just 'big cats' which should at least help differentiate between this type of cat, the wildcat and of course the common domestic cat that you're more familiar with. You know, the type that sits on your car at night and craps in your garden.
Now whilst we're on the subject of confusion, remember how in the previous chapter I said that there's often a mix-up over the terms turtle, terrapin and tortoise? Well there seems to be a similar confusion over the name black panther. In Latin America black panthers are known as black jaguars, whereas in Asia and Africa they're known as black leopards and in North America they're black cougars, so as you can see, things can often get a bit crazy when learning about black panthers too! Technically if you think about it, as the superhero Black Panther is from Wakanda in Africa he'd really be known as Black Leopard and not Black Panther!!
Does your head hurt yet?
Well hold on, because I've only just started.
Black panthers are from the Panthera genus; along with tigers, lions, jaguars and leopards (oh my). This is a grouping of four big cats, yes four, not five, because as I've just mentioned black panthers are also known as jaguars and leopards, so they're included between these two species of cat.
Are you still following me?
Good. These four big cats are the only cats that have the ability to roar and...
Are you getting a little lost with all the talk about panthers?
ERM... YEAH, A BIT.
Right, well what might help you out is knowing that the word panther in Greek can mean 'every wild beast' and so think of the term panther covering a few different species of big cat. Well, sort of. All you really need to know is that black panthers are basically panthers that are black in colour due to the increased amount of dark pigmentation they have and they're kind of grouped together with tigers.
Now, moving on.
Tigers are the largest of the big cats from the Panthera genus and are native to Eastern and Southern Asia. They're great swimmers, have powerful legs, great night vision and live for 10 - 15 years in the wild. You'll probably recognise tigers mostly for their very distinctive orange and black stripes, which are unique to each animal and what you might find interesting is the fact that the pattern of their stripes is actually skin deep!
WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
Well imagine you were able to sneak up by the side of a tiger without it mauling you with its mighty paws. Then imagine that you were clutching an electric shaver and you were then able to shave the tiger bold.
Firstly if you did manage this then congratulations for not dying.
Now, secondly what you would see on the skin of the tiger is a pattern that would match the fur you had just shaved off! WOW THAT'S IMPRESSIVE!
Yes it is; but I wouldn't recommend that you do this as tigers can be very dangerous.
Erm... tigers have killed more humans than any other cat. Yes that even takes into account the numerous attempted suicides by people forced to sit through the Garfield movie. I'd also not recommend shaving a tiger as tigers are an endangered species and so we need to protect as many of them as we can! Of the 9 subspecies of modern tiger, there are only 6 subspecies left (the Bengal tiger, Indochinese tiger, the Malayan tiger, the Sumatran tiger, the Siberian tiger and the South China tiger) as three subspecies of tiger (the Bali tiger, Javan tiger and Caspian tiger) are now extinct. There are cross breeds of tiger, such as the liger (a mix of lion and tiger), but male ligers are as sterile as my uncle Rory and they're only half tiger and not one of the nine subspecies anyway.
HMMM... I'M GETTING THE FEELING THAT TIGERS AND BLACK PANTHERS WOULD NOT MAKE GREAT SUPERHEROES. SHOULD I EVEN ASK?
To be honest I'm amazed you've even stuck with this so far. I would have thought you'd have given up after I tried to explain about black panthers.
Well, both panthers and tigers do have a bit of a mythical quality about them, which is kind of like being a superhero...right? In Chinese folk tales tigers are believed to fight off the bad and protect the good and let's not forget that mythical feline, Tony the Tiger, who ate magical sugar frosted flakes of corn and...
OK, NOW YOU'RE TALKING RUBBISH AREN'T YOU?
Yeah, pretty much. Anyway, as mentioned tigers and black panthers are big cats and therefore they're dangerous. The fact that tigers are also an endangered species makes them even less likely to want to become superheroes to help the human race, so you can pretty much forget them being Earth's saviours.
That's it for this time. We'll be talking cats again next week, so don't forget to come back as Science Goes Wild continues! You lucky, lucky people.