Scientific Name: Panthera onca
The Jaguar is one of the most wonderful felines in the world. They are very graceful in their movements. They are classified in the big four cats, and they rank #3. Both the Lion and the Tiger are bigger than they are. These animals have great looking spots on their coat that are black. The spots are of various sizes and shapes. They also have brown or tan coloring under them. Around the spots is usually some red, orange, yellow, or white.
The fur is very shiny as well. These felines offer different sizes depending on the location where they live. The males are up to 20% larger than the females. The smaller ones are about 124 and the larger ones weigh up to 211 pounds.
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The body of the Jaguar is one that is built for speed and to be a killing machine. They have huge muscles in their shoulders and their long legs. They have powerful jaws with very sharp teeth to kill their prey. They can leap vertical and horizontal in long distances. They also have a tail that helps to give them balance and agility. They can even hang upside down in the trees due to their strength.
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Approximately 11 million years is the length of time that the Jaguar has been around on Earth. They branched out from other types of Panthera though only about 4 million or less years ago. There isn’t’ very much known at all about the evolution of these remarkable animals. All that we have to go on right now is DNA that tells us that they are very closely related to Lions and Leopards. Yet what that relationship is we aren’t really sure of.
The Jaguar is an animal that enjoys being alone. With the exception of mating or raising young they are never really around others. The males have very large home ranges and sometimes the home range of females will overlap. These felines can be very territorial though. If they feel that their ability o get food is being compromised by others being around they may fight over that location.
Most felines rest a great deal during the day and then they are active at night. However, the Jaguar is one that is known to be very active during any time of the day or night. They have great vision and hearing so they are able to get around without any real problems. They are known to spend lots of time hiding or resting in trees so that is why many people never see them.
Habitat and Distribution
The Jaguar is able to live in a variety of habitats. They are mainly found in the rainforest where they have food, shelter, and plenty of trees. They also live on the plains and will hide in the tall grasses found there. All along the area of Central America you will find the Jaguar living. This includes Paraguay, Argentina, and Mexico. They are very adaptable so they continue to move into new locations if they can’t find what they need where they are at.
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Diet and Feeding Habits
The Jaguar has plenty of options when it comes to food sources. They will eat just about anything they can find. They do consume lots of small prey such as reptiles and rodents. They like eggs from various animals and if they see them unattended they will consume them. Larger prey includes the crocodile, deer, and the sloth.
They kill prey differently than other felines. While they do hide and then pounce, they have sharper teeth. They actually penetrate the skull by biting the back of it. The teeth are able to go all the way through it. Problems with parasites are common for the Jaguar. It is believed to be directly linked to their food sources in their habitat.
Females are ready to mate about 2 years of age and males from 3 to 4 years of age. The mating can occur during any time of the year. When they have enough food and low stress they are more likely to mate. The females will give off powerful scents that attract the males. They also call out to them, encouraging them to travel large distances. The males may fight each other to get to the female for mating.
The pair won’t stick around each other long after mating and conception is usually successful. The female has time to get a den ready for the cubs that will arrive in about 90 to 110 days. If the temperatures are warm it will be on the low side but if it is cold it will be on the higher side. She can have up to 4 cubs per litter.
These young cubs need a great deal of care at first. They will be blind at birth and feed from her body. When she needs to get food she has to leave them alone. Occasionally she moves them one by one to a new den. This prevents them from offering a powerful scent that attracts the adult males. If they find them they will kill them as when she cares for them she won’t be ready to mate.
These cubs stay in the den until they are about 6 weeks old. When they are about 3 weeks old she will start to bring them back meat from her kills. When they are ready to leave the den they will also help her to kill prey. They can fully care for themselves when they are about a year old. She will have taught them all they need to survive, but they will typically stay with her for another year.
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Other than the risk of the adult male Jaguars killing the cubs, there aren’t any real predators in the wild for them to be concerned with. Even so the Jaguar is in danger of being able to survive. They are classified as being near endangered. Many people believe that if the efforts of humans continue as they have been then these animals will be wiped out in just a few decades.
The biggest reason that the Jaguar is struggling with numbers has to do with the fact that they have gorgeous coats. They were once killed in droves in order to satisfy the demand for them. The amount of money that was paid for those coats was much more than many people could earn with other types of work. Today there is very little fur trade for them that remains. That has helped them but the damage to their population was quite severe by that time.
Areas of India and China have almost no Jaguars left. The Indian culture believes that the Jaguar offers them magical powers. The Chinese believe that the bones of the feline can be used to make medicine for their people. You can’t change the mindset of such cultures that have gone on for hundreds of years. They do know that the Jaguar is in limited numbers but continue to kill them nonetheless.’
There are many areas where the natural habitat of the Jaguar is being invaded by humans. The create homes and businesses in those areas. As a result the increase of death for humans and for livestock by the Jaguar have increased. Conservation efforts do focus on getting these areas protected but for the most part they haven’t been successful yet.