Panthera onca (Linnaeus, 1758)

Don E. Wilson & Russell A. Mittermeier, 2009, Felidae, Handbook of the Mammals of the World – Volume 1 Carnivores, Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, pp. 54-168 : 138-139

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Panthera onca


7. View Plate 4: Felidae Jaguar

Panthera onca

French: Jaguar / German: Jaguar / Spanish: Yaguar

Taxonomy. Felis onca Linnaeus, 1758 ,

Pernambuco, Brazil.

Based on the patterns of mtDNA and microsatellite variation, two phylogenetic groups were identified. One consists of individuals from Mexico, Central America, and South America N of the Amazon River; the other encompasses animals from Peru and Brazil S of the Amazon River. These analyses do not support the major geographic partitioning among traditional Jaguar subspecies, suggesting a taxonomic revision is needed. Nine subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution.

P. o. onca Linnaeus, 1758 — Amazon and Orinoco basin rainforests.

P.o. arizonensis Goldman, 1932 — SW USA ( Arizona ) to NW Mexico ( Sonora ).

P. o. centralis Mearns, 1901 — Nicaragua to Colombia.

P. o. goldmani Mearns, 1901 — Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico S to Belize and N Honduras.

P. o. hernandesi Gray, 1857 — W Mexico (S Sonora to Oaxaca).

P. o. palustris Ameghino, 1888 — S Brazil S through Uruguay to N Argentina (the Rio Negro in Chaco province).

P. o. paraguensis Hollister, 1914 — Paraguay.

P. o. peruviana de Blainville, 1843 — coastal regions of Ecuador and Peru.

P.o. veraecrucis Nelson & Goldman, 1933 — S USA (C Texas, now extinct) to SE Mexico (Chiapas). View Figure

Descriptive notes. Head-body 116-170 cm,tail 44-80 cm. Adult males heavier (37-121 kg) than adult females (31-100 kg), and there is considerable regional variation in size. Jaguars from Central America are about half the size of cats from the Pantanal of Brazil and the Venezuelan Llanos. Background coat color varies from pale gold to a rich rusty red, and is patterned with a series of circular dark markings or rosettes that enclose one or more smaller black spots. In the similar-looking Leopard, there are no spots inside the black rosettes. A row of black spots along the middle of the Jaguar's back sometimes merges into a solid line. The underparts are whitish and marked with dark spots. The tail is marked with black spots and there are several black rings or bands on the terminal half. The ears are short and rounded, black on the back with a faint buff central spot. Melanistic individuals are common, and in bright light the spots on these black cats are often visible through the darker background of the fur. The Jaguaris a powerful, deep-chested, stocky cat with an unusually large, rounded head and short, sturdy limbs. The skull is heavy-boned, short, and broad, with a well-developed sagittal crest for muscle attachments, and the bite force on the robust caninesis greater than that of all other big cats.

Habitat. Jaguars are found in a variety of forested habitats, including lowland tropical moist forest, gallery forests along rivers and streams, seasonally flooded wooded savannas, mangrove swamps, premontane moist forest, semi-deciduous forest, and humid montane and cloud forests to about 2000 m. Jaguars are often found in association with rivers, lakes and well-watered areas such as the swampy grasslands of the Brazilian Pantanal. They are excellent swimmers and have been seen crossing large rivers. Like Tigers, during the hot season Jaguars may spend the heat of the day half-submerged in a stream. They may occasionally be found in arid areas, buttypically only where watercourses penetrate this drier habitat. Jaguars avoid open forest and grassland habitat but are commonly found along the edges of forest openings.

Food and Feeding. Jaguars are opportunistic predators, capable of killing almost any prey they encounter. The cat's powerful jaws and robust canine teeth enable it to kill livestock weighing three to four times its own weight, often with a bite to the back of the skull, rather than the more common neck or throat bite employed by other large cats. The canines are also strong enough to penetrate the hard shells of large river turtles and the thick hides of crocodilians. More than 85 prey species are listed in the cat’s diet. In the seasonally flooded savannas of Venezuela,Jaguars preferred Capybara ( Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) and Collared Peccary (Pecari tajacu), but they also preyed on White-tailed Deer ( Odocoileus virginianus), caiman, freshwater turtles and turtle eggs ( Chelidae , Pelomedusidae ), tortoises, iguanas, and cattle. Collared Peccary, agouti, and large turtles also formed the bulk of the Jaguar's diet in the lowland tropical forest of Manu National Park, Peru. Jaguars in Iguacu National Park, Brazil, fed mainly on Collared Peccary, White-lipped Peccary (Tayassu peccari), Brocket ( Mazama ) and White-tailed Deer; minor prey included coati, agouti, marsupials, armadillos, rabbits, Paca (Cuniculus paca), squirrels, birds, reptiles and primates. In the Cockscomb Basis of Belize armadillos were the single most important prey, occurring in half of all Jaguar feces. Three-toed sloths (Bradypus) and iguanas were the prominent prey items in the Jaguar's diet in La Selva, Costa Rica. In the Paraguayan Chaco, small and medium-size mammals, principally Brocket Deer, rabbits, armadillos, and marsupials were important prey. Although Jaguars are especially fond of peccaries, the cat’s basic diet tends to reflect the relative abundance of the various prey species in an area. In areas where native ungulates have been depleted and forest habitats converted to pastures for domestic stock, Jaguars subsist to a large extent on cattle. The Jaguar can climb treesifit has to, but it is essentially a terrestrial hunter. Like many other felids, Jaguars hunt by walking slowly along gametrails and roads, listening and looking for prey. They will wait in ambush at waterholes or wallows for peccaries or patrol river banks in search of basking crocodilians or turtles. Having spotted an animal they will stalk it, using every bit of cover to get as close as possible, before launching an attack. After one or two bounds the prey is seized with the claws and killed with a bite. Jaguars have been seen jumping into the water after Capybara and managing to catch them before they can dive to safety. Prey may be eaten on the spot or carried for several hundred meters or more to a site where the cat presumably feels comfortable.

Activity patterns. Radio-telemetry studies show that Jaguars have variable activity patterns. In Mexico, Belize, and Venezuela the cat is primarily nocturnal, spending the daytime resting in tangled thickets, caves, or in dense cover before becoming active around sunset. In Peru and Brazil Jaguars were just as active during the daytime as they were at night. Variation in activity patterns is common and probably reflects differences in the daily and seasonal activity patterns of the prey, changes in prey availability, and possibly human disturbance. Cattle are often taken during the daytime, as are crocodilians and turtles; deer and peccary are more likely to be active at night or around sunrise and sunset. Cats that are frequently harassed by people during the daytime typically become nocturnal.

Movements, Home range and Social organization. There are few precise estimates of distances traveled by Jaguars during their nightly movements, but based on following tracks, experienced hunters guessed that females moved 3—4 km per night and males about 10 km. In W Mexico, radio-collared Jaguars travelled up to 20 km in a night of hunting. Home range sizes show considerable variation between sites and by season. At one ranch in the southern Pantanal, the dry season home ranges of four females varied from 97 to 168 km ® and overlapped extensively. To what extent this overlap was influenced by relatedness is unknown, but two of the females were mother and daughter. An adult male’s range in the same area was 152 km? During the wet season their ranges were four to five times smaller than in the dry season, because large areas were inundated to depths of eight to nine feet, and prey were concentrated on the high ground. Ata ranch in the western Pantanal, where wet season flooding was not as severe, the home ranges of a presumed mother and daughter overlapped completely and measured 38 km *. Their ranges overlapped slightly with another female’s whose range was 25 km? An adult male’s range overlapped the ranges of all these females. The average home range size of three adult male Jaguars in Iguacu National Park, Brazil, was 110 km ” (range 86-139 km®); an adult female’s range was 70 km? In the dry tropical forest of W Mexico, female Jaguar ranges are about 25 km? in the dry season and 65 km ” in the wet season. In this habitat, prey that was concentrated around water sources during the dry season disperses throughout the forest with the onset of the rains. Jaguar densities are remarkably similar across the cat’s range. At sites in Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and Mexico, densities range from 1-3-5 adults per 100 km ®. Jaguar density in Belize was estimated at 8-8 adults/ 100 km? while the highest densities recorded (10-11 Jaguars/ 100 km?) are in the Brazilian Pantanal, a vast natural floodplain.

Breeding. Both male and female Jaguars roar, and roaring may serve to bring the sexes together for mating. There are anecdotal reports that females in heat travel widely, calling for a mate. Estrus lasts 6-17 days and copulation is rapid and frequent: a pair may mate 100 times per day. The young are born after a gestation period of 93-105 days. Litter size varies from 1-4, with an average of two. Births occur throughout the year in tropical areas but in the more temperate portions of the Jaguar’s range there is some evidence suggesting a summer birth peak. Kittens weigh about 700-900 g at birth and have coarse, woolly, spotted coats. Their eyes open at 13 days of age. The young are totally dependent on their mother’s milk until they are 10-11 weeks old and may continue to suckle until they are 5-6 months old. Males grow faster than females and at two years of age young males may be 50% heavier than their female siblings. At 15-18 months young Jaguar are usually traveling independently within their mother’s range, making their own kills. Dispersal occurs at 16-24 months of age. Females attain sexual maturity at 24-30 months and males at 3—4 years.

Status and Conservation. CITES Appendix I. Classified as Near Threatened on The IUCN Red List. All countries within the range of the Jaguar are members of CITES, and all countries with Jaguar populations have laws that forbid killing them. However, these laws are not always well enforced and most allow a rancher to kill Jaguars to protect domestic stock. Jaguar numbers are declining across most of South and Central America. The greatest losses have occurred in the drier northern parts of the cat’s range in the USA, where there is some recent evidence of a resident population. Mexico, and at the southern end, in the scrub grasslands of Argentina. There are no reliable estimates of how much the Jaguar’s range has been diminished, but one calculation suggests that since European settlement the cat’s range has shrunk from 15 million km* to 8-7 million km®. Currently, the species’ stronghold is the six million km*® Amazon Basin rainforest, but even there efforts are underway to open the area to development. Today, the most important factor affecting Jaguar numbers is habitat loss from timber extraction and conversion to pasture and agricultural lands. Jaguar habitat is also being lost as forests are modified in association with mining operations, oil drilling, and human settlements. People associated with these settlements and operations often supplement their diet with wild game and thus compete directly with Jaguars for prey such as Capybara, peccary and deer. When Spanish and Portuguese settlers introduced cattle to the New World they provided theJaguar with large, easy-tokill prey. Today, in the savannas and gallery forest of Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil, ranchers graze millions of cattle in habitats also used by Jaguar. Herd management is rudimentary and preand post-natal mortality of calves is high. Some losses are attributable to depredation byJaguar, but for most ranches the real impact is unknown. The impacts can also vary from site to site. On the Miranda Ranch in the southern Pantanal, cattle comprised 46% of Jaguar kills and 35% of Puma kills. One ranch in the Venezuelan Llanos reported that cattle depredation by felines accounted for 6% of all calf losses. At another ranch in the same area, depredation caused 30% of calf losses. For small cattle operations, the value of calf loss can be high. The result is that Jaguars are usually targeted whenever they are encountered. A few attempts have been made to modify cattle management practices, but with no analysis of effectiveness or cost-benefit. Some efforts have been made to control “problem or nuisance” animals by removal or translocation to other areas, but since relocated Jaguars are seldom followed the effectiveness of this practice remains unknown. The few studies that have been conducted show that not all Jaguars kill cattle. During a 2year study on a large cattle ranch in the Venezuelan Llanos, researchers found that only 13% of all calf mortality was due to large cats, and that Puma were responsible for 86% of the cat mortality. At a site in Belize, most confirmed cattle-killing Jaguar showed signs of previous shotgun wounds. In some areas ranchers may be partially responsible for livestock depredation problems when they shoot at and injure Jaguars, because such injuries may force these cats to subsist on the easier to catch livestock. Until recently it has been assumed that the Jaguar had some degree of natural protection because many of its populations were largely inaccessible to people. Over the last decade there has been a growing realization that this protection is rapidly disappearing. Recently, efforts have been made to build a framework for Jaguar conservation and research throughout its geographic range, much like the model for the Tiger. Priorities include information exchange, standardized research methods, assessment of threats, and cooperation across borders.

Bibliography. de Almeida (1976), Aranda & Sanchez-Cordero (1996), Azevedo (2008), Bisbal (1989), Crawshaw & Quigley (1991), Eizirik et al. (2001), Emmons (1987, 1989), Hoogesteijn & Mondolfi (1992, 1996), Hoogesteijn et al. (1993), IUCN (2008), Jorgenson & Redford (1993), Leopold (1959), Maffei et al. (2004), McCain & Childs (2008), Medellin et al. (2001), Mondolfi & Hoogesteijn (1986), Nowell & Jackson (1996), Perry (1970), Quigley & Crawshaw (1992), Rabinowitz (1986a, 1986b), Rabinowitz & Nottingham (1986), Sanderson, E.W. et al. (2002), Schaller & Crawshaw (1980), Schaller & Vasconcelos (1978), Scognamillo et al. (2003), Seymour (1989), Silver et al. (2004), Soisalo & Cavalcanati (2006), Sunquist & Sunquist (2002), Swank & Teer (1989), Taber et al. (1997), Zimmermann et al. (2005).














Panthera onca

Don E. Wilson & Russell A. Mittermeier 2009

Felis onca

Linnaeus 1758