Jaguar

Panthera onca

SUBFAMILY

Pantherinae

TAXONOMY

Felis onca (Linnaeus, 1758), Central America. OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Jaguar; German: Jaguar; Spanish: Tigre, tigre real, yaguar.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Length 44-73 in (112-185 cm); tail 18-30 in (45-75 cm); weight 125-250 lb (57-113 kg). Similar in appearance to leopard. Massive head and strong canines. Yellowish brown coat, marked with dark rosettes around small black spots. Black spots on belly, pale chest. Melanistic (black) forms common. Tail ringed black near to tip.

DISTRIBUTION

Patagonia to southwest United States. HABITAT

Dense forest, swamps, open grassland, deciduous forest. Strongly associated with water.

BEHAVIOR

Solitary, mainly nocturnal, but often active in daytime. Can roar, but more commonly heard grunting or coughing when hunting, snarling or growling when threatened. Excellent swimmer. Territory 10-60 mi2 (25-150 km2), linked to prey availability.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Deer, peccaries, tapirs, monkeys, birds, rodents, fish, frogs. Mainly hunts large prey, but takes smaller items opportunistically. The only big cat which regularly kills prey by piercing skull with canines. Massive head and strong canines enable jaguars to crack open tortoises and turtles.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Polygamous. Gestation 95-110 days, litter one to four. Cubs independent after 18-24 months. Females sexually mature at two to three years, males at three to four.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Classified as Lower Risk/Near Threatened by IUCN. Now virtually eliminated from much of drier northern range in the United States, and pampas scrub of Agrentina and Uruguay. Deforestation and fragmentation of forest habitats pose a threat in central America.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Jaguars takes cattle as a significant portion of their diet in some parts, and are heavily persecuted by cattle ranchers. Commercial trade in skins has become insignificant since CITES trade ban of 1975. ♦

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