Scientific Classification

Cory-with-panther.jpg
Florida panther first described by Charles B. Cory in 1896.

Scientists classify the biological world into a series of categories beginning with the broadest and ending with the most specific. This classification is called taxonomy.

The Florida panther is classified as:

  • Kingdom - Animalia
  • Phylum - Chordata
  • Subphylum - Vertebrata
  • Class - Mammalia
  • Order - Carnivora
  • Family - Felidae
  • Subfamily - Felinae
  • Genus - Puma
  • Species - concolor
  • Subspecies - coryi

The Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) is one of more than 25 subspecies of puma (Puma concolor). Historically, distinctions between subspecies were made based on physical characteristics but today there are new tools such as DNA analyses. Combining the use of physical characteristics with DNA analyses to help define subspecies is an evolving process. It is especially difficult when dealing with a species as wide-ranging as the puma. There is inconsistency in the total number of puma subspecies. Various books and other sources identify the number of subspecies as anywhere from six to 30.

The subspecies name coryi comes from naturalist and hunter Charles Barney Cory, who first described the Florida panther as a subspecies of cougar in 1896 in his book Hunting and Fishing in Florida. He named it Felis concolor floridana, but floridana had already been used for a subspecies of bobcat so scientists changed the name to Felis concolor coryi.

Until 1993, the cougar was classified in the genus Felis along with the domestic cat, the ocelot and 27 other species. In 1993 the cougar was reassigned to the genus Puma.

A study on puma genetics published in 2000 suggested that all North American puma became extinct during the late Pleistocene era some 10,000 years ago. Subsequently, puma recolonized the continent after the last ice age and all North American puma are believed to be comprised of a single subspecies according to the study’s authors. This study further suggested that only six subspecies of puma, instead of 30, should be recognized range-wide throughout North and South America. No consensus opinion has emerged from mammologists, taxonomists and other scientists on whether to accept this paper’s findings. Even if the scientific classification of the Florida panther were to change it could still be protected under the Endangered Species Act as an endangered distinct population segment.



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