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Brief Summary

Comprehensive Description

Distribution

    Distribution
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Jaguars have a large distribution, they are found from southern Arizona and New Mexico south toward northern Argentina and northeastern Brazil. However, populations have been substantially reduced or eliminated in some areas, including El Salvador, the United States, and large portions of Mexico.

    Jaguars currently encompass a range of approximately 8.75 million square kilometers, or 46% of their historical range. The largest contiguous distribution of jaguars is concentrated in the Amazon Basin and includes portions of the Cerrado, Pantanal, and Chaco areas to the south. This range extends north and east to the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and Guianas. Populations have been reduced primarily in northern Mexico, United States, northern Brazil, and southern Argentina. Populations have been extirpated in the Argentina Monte region and the grasslands of the Pampas. Jaguars are not typically found at higher elevations, such as Pantepui or Puna montane grasslands.

    Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

Morphology

    Morphology
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Jaguars are the largest cats in the Americas and the only representative of the genus Panthera. Height at the shoulder may be up to 75 cm. Body length is 150 to 180 cm long with a tail of 70 to 90 cm. Jaguars weigh between 68 and 136 kilograms. Jaguars are powerfully built, with large, square jaws and prominent cheeks. Jaguars have lean bodies and muscular limbs. They are built for power, not speed, although they can run briefly. A jaguar was observed draging a 34 kg sea turtle 91.5 meters into the cover of a forest. They hunt by pouncing on unsuspecting prey. Base coat colors range from pale yellow to reddish brown, with black, rosette-shaped spots on the neck, body, and limbs. The belly is off white. Black, or melanistic, jaguars are fairly common and are the result of a single, dominant allele. These jaguars have a base coat color of black with black spots that are usually dimly visible against the black background. Melanistic jaguars are more common in forested habitats. The largest jaguars are found in the Brazilian Pantanal, where males average 100 kg and females 76 kg. The smallest jaguars are found in Honduras, where males average 57 kg and females 42 kg. In general, jaguars found in dense forests are smaller than those found in more open habitats, possibly because densities of large ungulate prey are greater in open habitats. Male jaguars are generally 10 to 20% larger than females. The dental formula is: I 3/3, C 1/1, PM 3/2, and M 1/1.

    Range mass: 68 to 136 kg.

    Average mass: 100 kg.

    Range length: 1.5 to 1.85 m.

    Average length: 1.75 m.

    Average basal metabolic rate: 62.4190 cm3.O2/g/hr.

    Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

    Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

    Average basal metabolic rate: 62.419 W.

Habitat

    Habitat
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Jaguars prefer dense, tropical moist lowland forests that offer plenty of cover, although they are also found in scrubland, reed thickets, coastal forests, swamps, and thickets. Jaguars are excellent swimmers and are generally found in habitats near water, such as rivers, slow moving streams, lagoons, watercourses, and swamps. They are not typically found in arid areas. Jaguars have been reported from as high as 3800 m in Costa Rica, but they are generally not common in montane forests and are not found above 2700 meters in the Andes. In northern Mexico and southwestern United States, jaguars are found in oak woodlands, mesquite thickets, and riparian woodlands. Jaguars stalk their prey on the ground, preferring thick vegetation for cover. Jaguars are also able to climb trees for safety or to hunt. Jaguars require three habitat characteristics to support healthy populations: a water supply, dense cover, and sufficient prey.

    Range elevation: 10 to 2000 m.

    Average elevation: 100 m.

    Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

    Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest

    Wetlands: swamp

    Other Habitat Features: riparian

Trophic Strategy

    Trophic Strategy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Jaguars are strictly carnivores. They eat a wide variety of prey, over 85 species have been reported in the diet of jaguars. Preferred prey are large animals, such as peccaries, tapirs, and deer. They also prey on caimans, turtles, snakes, porcupines, capybaras, fish, large birds, and many other animals. Jaguars typically attack prey by pouncing on them from a concealed spot. They either deliver a direct bite to the neck and then suffocate their prey, or they instantly kill them by piercing the back of the skull with their canines. Their powerful jaws and canines allow them to get through thick reptilian skin and turtle carapaces. Jaguars then drag their prey to a secluded spot where they eat them.

    Animal Foods: birds; mammals; reptiles; fish

    Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)

Associations

    Associations
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Jaguars are top predators and considered a keystone species because of their impact on the populations of other animals in the ecosystem. Internal parasites include lung flukes, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms. External parasites include ticks and warble fly larvae.

    Ecosystem Impact: keystone species

    Commensal/Parasitic Species:

    • ticks (Acari)
    • trematode lung flukes (Trematoda)
    • tapeworms (Cestoda)
    • hookworms (Strongiloidae)
    • whip worms (Enoplia)
    • warble fly larvae (Oestridae)
    Associations
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Humans are the primary predators of jaguars. Jaguars are victims of illegal poaching by humans and their pelts, paws, and teeth. They are cryptically colored and secretive, which helps them to hunt their prey and avoid detection by humans.

    Known Predators:

    • humans (Homo sapiens)

    Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

Behavior

    Behavior
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Jaguars mainly communicate through vocalizations. Vocalizations are grunting "uhs" increasing in tone and power, while decreasing in frequency between grunts. The typical vocalization includes seven to a dozen grunts, depending on whether the individual is a male, female, or female entering estrus. Males generally have more powerful vocalizations than females, whose grunts are softer except when in estrus. During estrus, female jaguars call late into the night through early dawn, using 5 to 7 grunts to announce herself. Male vocalizations in response to estrus females are hoarse and guttural. This is taken advantage of by hunters, who use a hollow gourd to mimic this call and attract jaguars to the hunter. Jaguars advertise territories through vocalizations, scraping the ground and trees, and defecating and urinating on prominent locations.

    Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical

    Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Life Expectancy

    Life Expectancy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Jaguars can live 11 to 12 years in the wild. Illness, accident, interactions with other animals, or hunting are major sources of mortality. In captivity jaguars may live over 20 years.

    Range lifespan
    Status: captivity:
    28 (high) years.

    Average lifespan
    Status: captivity:
    20 years.

    Typical lifespan
    Status: wild:
    11 to 12 years.

    Average lifespan
    Status: captivity:
    20.0 years.

    Average lifespan
    Status: captivity:
    22.0 years.

Reproduction

    Reproduction
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Jaguars typically communicate through vocalizations. Females in estrus venture out of their territory to call during the morning and late at night, advertising for a mate. Males answer those calls with their own vocalizations and travel to her territory to mate, leading to competition between males for that mating opportunity. It is not uncommon for a female to travel with one or two male jaguars during estrus, although a dominant male will usually drive a smaller male away. Females do not tolerate the presence of males after mating and especially after their cubs are born.

    Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

    The estrus cycle is usually 37 days with estrus length of 6 to 17 days. Estrus may be indicated by behavioral changes such as lordosis, flehmen, vocalization, rolling, and increased scent marking. Males may show an increase in androgen levels throughout the year, but hormone levels peak during the time of receding flood waters in some areas. Jaguars may produce offspring year-round but mating typically increases during the months of December through March. Most births occur during the wet season, when prey is more abundant. Females give birth to 2 offspring (range 1 to 4) after a gestation period of 91 to 111 days. Female reproductive maturity occurs between 12 and 24 month, males become sexually mature at 24 to 36 months.

    Breeding interval: Females breed every two years.

    Breeding season: Jaguars may breed throughout the year, but most births occur in wet seasons, when prey is more abundant.

    Range number of offspring: 1 to 4.

    Average number of offspring: 2.

    Range gestation period: 91 to 111 days.

    Range weaning age: 5 to 6 months.

    Range time to independence: 1.75 to 2.5 years.

    Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 12 to 24 months.

    Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 24 to 36 months.

    Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous

    Average birth mass: 820 g.

    Average number of offspring: 2.

    Cubs are born with their eyes closed and are completely dependent on their mother. Their eyes open around two weeks old. Cubs nurse until they are 5 to 6 months old, at which time they begin to hunt with their mother. They depend on their mother for protection from predators, for food, and for guidance and teaching as they grow. Offspring are dependent on their mother until they are almost two years old.

    Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); extended period of juvenile learning

Conservation Status

    Jaguar conservation projects
    provided by EOL authors
    Learn more about current and concluded jaguar conservation projects executed by NGOs, government ministries and research institutions in the Rainforest Alliance's Eco-Index: www.eco-index.org/search/keyword_complete.cfm?keyword=jaguar.
    Conservation Status
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Jaguars are considered near threatened by the IUCN. They are considered endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and are on Appendix I of CITES. Many populations remain stable but jaguars are threatened throughout most of their range by hunting, persecution, and habitat destruction. Jaguars are persecuted especially in areas of cattle ranching, where they are often shot on sight despite protective legislation.

    US Federal List: endangered

    CITES: appendix i

    State of Michigan List: no special status

    IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened

Benefits

    Benefits
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Jaguars occasionally hunt cattle and other livestock, which leads to persecution by ranchers. Some countries, such as Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru, prohibit hunting jaguars to only "problem animals" that repeatedly kill livestock. Bolivia allows trophy hunting of jaguars. Jaguars do not attack humans without provocation. Occasionally jaguars have been observed following humans, but this is thought to be to "escort" them out of their territory.

    Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings)

    Benefits
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Jaguars are top predators and keystone species in the ecosystems they inhabit. Jaguar pelts and furs are sold for profit, despite it being illegal to hunt them in most countries. The implementation of laws protecting jaguars has improved in recent years. Jaguars are also an important source of ecotourism income to local communities where jaguars might be observed.

    Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material; ecotourism ; research and education