Jaguar (Panthera onca)
Order: Carnivora, Family: Panthera
Dense forest-dwelling jaguars are darker in color than jaguars that inhabit grasslands and scrub forests. Females are generally lighter in color than males.
The jaguar has a large, broad, rounded head, stocky legs with retractable claws and a muscular body. Its coat is soft and woolly with short, smooth hairs. The belly is white, and the chest is paler than the rest of the body. It has large eyes.
Jaguars measure approximately 4 to 6 feet in length with a 17- to 30-inch-long tail. They weigh 125 to 260 pounds; females are 20 percent smaller than males.
II. GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
- Dense forest-dwelling jaguars are darker in color than jaguars that inhabit grasslands and scrub forests. Females are generally lighter in color than males.
- The jaguar has a large, broad, rounded head, stocky legs with retractable claws and a muscular body. Its coat is soft and woolly with short, smooth hairs. The belly is white, and the chest is paler than the rest of the body. It has large eyes.
- Jaguars measure approximately 4 to 6 feet in length with a 17- to 30-inch-long tail. They weigh 125 to 260 pounds; females are 20 percent smaller than males.
- The jaguar's range extends from the southwestern United States to Mexico and Central America, and through South America to central Patagonia.
- Jaguars live in many different kinds of habitats, including lowland rain forests, dry woodlands, dense forests and swamps. They will also live in open grasslands as long as there is a reliable source of water.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
- Jaguars take full advantage of the diverse and dense concentration of animal species in the rain forest: marsh deer, brocket deer, peccaries, larger rodents (capybaras, pacas and agoutis), reptiles, birds, monkeys, wild horses and fish. They also eat domesticated livestock, such as cattle.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
- Jaguars are solitary (except during breeding) and predominantly forest dwellers.
- They're primarily terrestrial, though they make excellent swimmers.
- Jaguars are active before dawn and at dusk.
- Jaguars have powerful jaws, which they use to kill prey by piercing the skull or fracturing neck with one swift bite. They are also expert at catching fish, and often tackle turtles or large caimans, dragging prey from the water and later hiding carcass in dense undergrowth. They hunt monkeys from lower tree branches.
- Jaguars communicate with variety of vocalizations and use scent marking to identify territory.
- They reach sexual maturity at 3 to 4 years old, and mate from September to October.
- Gestation lasts three to four months. The female has two to four cubs weighing 24 to 32 ounces each. Blind at birth, cubs open their eyes after approximately 13 days.
- Young stay with the mother for two years and are fully grown at 3 to 4 years of age.
- Jaguars live approximately 12 to 16 years.
VI. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT:
- The forest-dwelling jaguar's dark coat gives better camouflage in the low-light conditions of the forest floor, thus offering the cat greater success in hunting and survival.
- Jaguars have a mediocre sense of smell but keen and acute binocular vision.
VII. POPULATION STATUS:
- Jaguars play an important role in maintaining the biological equilibrium of their ecosystems.
VIII. MORE JAGUAR FACTS:
- Jaguars are threatened with extinction.
- They have no natural rivals, but compete with human hunters and poachers for many of the same prey species.
- The jaguar population reached its worst decline in the 1960s and 1970s, when around 18,000 jaguars were killed every year for fur. However, thanks to pressure from animal-rights and conservation groups, the fashion for animal furs has declined.
- Today, the major threat to jaguars comes from deforestation, which affects their prey base and fragments population into more isolated pockets.
- The black jaguar is called melanistic, meaning it has an abnormally high degree of pigmentation, and is often confused with the black panther (another name for the black leopard).
- Jaguars are the largest felines in the Americas.
- Those found in the dense forests of the Amazon Basin are often only half the size of jaguars found in more open terrain. This difference may be attributed to the more frequent occurrence of large prey found in open terrain.