The word ‘Jaguar’ originated probably from the Amazonian trade language ‘Tupinambá’. The scientific name of Jaguar is ‘Panthera onca’. It is considered as the third largest feline (after tiger and lion) in the world and the largest in America. It is found in southwestern part of U.S, Mexico, south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. Jaguars are descendants of Old World cats. It is believed that jaguar and spotted leopard (its closest relative) had common ancestor in Asia. The forerunners of modern jaguars crossed Beringia in early Pleistocene era and gradually moved to America. It is the largest cat in the new world.
Characteristics of Jaguar
Jaguar is a compact and well muscled animal. It varies in size and weight. The base coat of the animal is usually tawny yellow. However, colours such as reddish – brown and black are also found. The ventral areas are white in colour. It has rosettes which may include one or several dots of varying shapes. Jaguar possesses solid spots on head, neck and tail.
What does the Jaguar eat?
Jaguar is the largest carnivorous mammal found in Central and South America. Its regular diet includes adult caimans, capybaras, deer, tapirs, peccaries, zorros, dogs and anacondas. Among small species, it eats mice, frogs, birds, sloths, turtles, fish and monkeys. It also consumes roots of Banisteriopsis caapi. Jaguar takes larger prey, generally over 22kg (49lb).
Jaguar – The apex predator
An adult jaguar is known to be the apex predator. It lies at the top of food chain and is not preyed on in forest. It is also called keystone species as it maintains the structural integrity of forest system. However, all scientists have not accepted the keystone species hypothesis.
Difference between Jaguar and Leopard
Jaguar is sturdier and heavier. The animal possesses few but large and dark rosettes with thick lines and small spots in the middle. These are absent in leopard. Besides, jaguar’s head is round in shape and it has short and stockier limbs.
Why are Jaguars endangered?
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared Jaguar as an endangered species. According to a study done by the Wildlife Conservation Society, jaguar has lost thirty seven percent of its historic range. Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, the world’s first wilderness reserve to protect and study Jaguars was established at Belize in the year 1990.
4 Interesting facts about Jaguars
- Jaguar is the national animal of Guyana.
- They sleep on tree branches.
- Jaguars are good swimmers.
- They can see well in dark.