The only extant member of the genus Panthera found in Americas, the jaguar is a representative of the wild cat family. The largest cat in the Americas, the jaguar receives its name from the Native American word yaguar, which means “he who kills with one leap.” A top-level carnivore, this big cat is responsible for preventing overgrazing. After the lion, they are one of the most famous cat species in the world due to their unmistakable coat and black spots.
Known as the largest and most powerful wild cat in the Western Hemisphere, Jaguars can be found across the USA and across rain forests in Central and South America. They prefer wet lowlands, swampy savannas, and tropical rain forests. Jaguars are also known to live in forests and grasslands, near lakes and rivers. They prefer the security of small caves, marshlands, and rock ledges, choosing shrubby areas to make their home.
There are about 15,000 jaguars remaining in the wild. The jaguars lived across a wide region from bottom tip of Argentina to Arizona, but today they have been nearly eradicated from USA and are endangered in the rest of South America.
Historically there were up to 9 subspecies Jaguars recognized: Panthera onca onca, Panthera onca arizonensis, Panthera onca centralis, Panthera onca goldmani, Panthera onca hernandesii, Panthera onca palustris, Panthera onca paraguensis, Panthera onca peruviana, Panthera onca veraecrucis.
The modern revision of taxonomy Felidae proposed that the Jaguar is a monotypic species, meaning it has no subspecies. However, there are 4 varied regional groups of Jaguars.
Jaguars are known to eat deer, monkeys, deer, peccary, turtles, crocodiles, snakes, sloths, tapirs, eggs, fish, and frogs. They will also eat any other animal they can catch, with a diet encompassing at least 87 species.
Jaguars in the wild can consume up to 25 kilograms of meat at one feeding followed by periods of famine. Animals in captivity however consume about 1.4 to 2 kilograms of food daily, depending on their weight. The jaguar starts consuming their prey by eating the heart and lungs first before moving on to the shoulders before advancing to the midsection.
The jaguar’s coat varies in color but are usually yellow-brownish with distinct black spots resembling that of leopards. Jaguars spots on their bodies are large black rosettes with a circle of spots surrounding a central spot. The spots on the head, legs and underside remain solid black.
The adult male jaguar can grow to be between 1.12 to 1.98 meters long from head to tail and the tail alone measures around 45 to 75 centimeters. The average weight of a jaguar ranges from 56 to 96 kilograms or 123 to 212 pounds. The larger males can grow to be exponentially bigger at 158 kilograms (348 pounds). Jaguar’s bodies are considerably shorter than lions and tigers, the average jaguar stands at 63 to 76 cm at shoulder height.
A short and stocky limb structure gives the jaguar its ability to climb, swim and crawl. The jaws of jaguars are extremely powerful, packing the third highest bite force of all felids. Jaguars forearms and shoulders and heavily packed with muscles allowing them to be very fast and strong. These tightly packed muscles and long, recitative claws make the jaguar a great hunter. The longer back legs give the jaguar its famous ability to jump high.
Jaguar’s Behavior & Life Cycle
The jaguar is considered to be the fiercest of the cat family. They embody an ambush hunting style, hiding in caves, bushes, and creeps close to its prey before jumping out. When they land on their prey from trees and bite the neck and kill their prey through breaking the bones of the neck or suffocating the animal.
Jaguars do not have a mating seasons as they mate throughout the year. Gestational period for a jaguar is between 95-110 days, and the litters are from 1-4 cubs. The lifespan for male and female have a lifespan of about 20 years.