Jaguar - Panthera onca

Joined: February 11th, 2012, 7:29 am

February 29th, 2012, 11:49 am #1

Jaguar - Panthera onca

Temporal range: Early to Middle Pleistocene – Recent

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Species: Panthera onca

The jaguar (Panthera onca) is a big cat, a feline in the Panthera genus, and is the only Panthera species found in the Americas. The jaguar is the third-largest feline after the Tiger and the Lion, and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. The jaguar's present range extends from Southern United States and Mexico across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. Apart from a known and possibly breeding population in Arizona (southeast of Tucson), the cat has largely been extirpated from the United States since the early 20th century.

This spotted cat most closely resembles the leopard physically, although it is usually larger and of sturdier build and its behavioural and habitat characteristics are closer to those of the Tiger. While dense rainforest is its preferred habitat, the jaguar will range across a variety of forested and open terrains. It is strongly associated with the presence of water and is notable, along with the Tiger, as a feline that enjoys swimming. The jaguar is largely a solitary, opportunistic, stalk-and-ambush predator at the top of the food chain (an apex predator). It is a keystone species, playing an important role in stabilizing ecosystems and regulating the populations of the animals it hunts. The jaguar has an exceptionally powerful bite, even relative to the other big cats. This allows it to pierce the shells of armoured reptiles and to employ an unusual killing method: it bites directly through the skull of prey between the ears to deliver a fatal bite to the brain.

The jaguar is a near threatened species and its numbers are declining. Threats include loss and fragmentation of habitat. While international trade in jaguars or their parts is prohibited, the cat is still frequently killed by humans, particularly in conflicts with ranchers and farmers in South America. Although reduced, its range remains large; given its historical distribution, the jaguar has featured prominently in the mythology of numerous indigenous American cultures, including that of the Maya and Aztec.

It comes to English from one of the Tupi–Guarani languages, presumably the Amazonian trade language Tupinambá, via Portuguese jaguar. The Tupian word, yaguara "beast", is sometimes translated as "dog". The specific word for jaguar is yaguareté, with the suffix -eté meaning "real" or "true".

The first component of its taxonomic designation, Panthera, is Latin, from the Greek word for leopard, πάνθηρ, the type species for the genus. This has been said to derive from the παν- "all" and θήρ from θηρευτής "predator", meaning "predator of all" (animals), though this may be a folk etymology —it may instead be ultimately of Sanskrit origin, from pundarikam, the Sanskrit word for "tiger".

Onca is the Portuguese onça, with the cedilla dropped for typographical reasons, found in English as ounce for the snow leopard, Uncia uncia. It derives from the Latin lyncea lynx, with the letter L confused with the definite article (Italian lonza, Old French l'once).

In many Central and South American countries, the cat is referred to as el tigre (the tiger).

The jaguar, Panthera onca, is the only extant New World member of the Panthera genus. DNA evidence shows the Lion, Tiger, leopard, jaguar, snow leopard, and clouded leopard share a common ancestor, and that this group is between six and ten million years old; the fossil record points to the emergence of Panthera just two to 3.8 million years ago. Phylogenetic studies generally have shown the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) is basal to this group. The position of the remaining species varies between studies and is effectively unresolved.

Based on morphological evidence, British zoologist Reginald Pocock concluded the jaguar is most closely related to the leopard. However, DNA evidence is inconclusive and the position of the jaguar relative to the other species varies between studies. Fossils of extinct Panthera species, such as the European jaguar (Panthera gombaszoegensis) and the American lion (Panthera atrox), show characteristics of both the Lion and the jaguar. Analysis of jaguar mitochondrial DNA has dated the species' lineage to between 280,000 and 510,000 years ago, later than suggested by fossil records.
Asian ancestry

While jaguars now live only in the Americas, they are descended from Old World cats. Two million years ago, scientists believe, the jaguar and its closest relative, the similarly spotted leopard, shared a common ancestor in Asia. In the early Pleistocene, the forerunners of modern jaguars crept across Beringia, the land bridge that once spanned the Bering Strait and connected Asia and North America. These jaguar ancestors then moved south into Central and South America, feeding on the deer and other grazing animals that once covered the landscape in huge herds.

Geographical variation
The last taxonomic delineation of the jaguar subspecies was performed by Pocock in 1939. Based on geographic origins and skull morphology, he recognized eight subspecies. However, he did not have access to sufficient specimens to critically evaluate all subspecies, and he expressed doubt about the status of several. Later consideration of his work suggested only three subspecies should be recognized.

Recent studies have also failed to find evidence for well-defined subspecies, and are no longer recognized. Larson (1997) studied the morphological variation in the jaguar and showed there is clinal north–south variation, but also the differentiation within the supposed subspecies is larger than that between them, and thus does not warrant subspecies subdivision. A genetic study by Eizirik and coworkers in 2001 confirmed the absence of a clear geographical subspecies structure, although they found that major geographical barriers, such as the Amazon River, limited the exchange of genes between the different populations. A subsequent, more-detailed study confirmed the predicted population structure within the Colombian jaguars.

Pocock's subspecies divisions are still regularly listed in general descriptions of the cat. Seymour grouped these in three subspecies.
Jaguar Subspecies
Trinomial nameCommon NameRangePhysical Characteristics
Panthera onca oncaCoastal JaguarVenezuela through the Amazon
Panthera onca peruvianaPeruvian JaguarCoastal Peru.
Panthera onca hernandesiiNorth American JaguarWestern MexicoA study of the jaguar in the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve on the Mexican Pacific coast, showed ranges of just about 50 kg (110 lb), about the size of a female cougar.
Panthera onca centralisCentral American JaguarEl Salvador to Colombia
Panthera onca arizonensisArizonan JaguarSouthern Arizona to Sonora, Mexico
Panthera onca goldmaniGoldman's JaguarYucatán Peninsula to Belize and Guatemala
Panthera onca veraecruscisCentral Texas to southeastern Mexico
Panthera onca paraguensis (or P. o. palustris if viewed as one subspecies)The Pantanal regions of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, along the Paraguay River into Paraguay and northeastern Argentina
Panthera onca palustrisPantanal JaguarNative to the Pantanal of South America and ArgentinaJaguars from the Pantanal region are the largest of the species, with lengths of about 2.7 m (8.9 ft) and average weights of about 100 kg (220 lb). Some individuals weighed more than 135 kg (298 lb).

Physical characteristics
The jaguar is a compact and well-muscled animal. Size and weight vary considerably: weights are normally in the range of 56–96 kilograms (124–211 lb). Larger males have been recorded to weigh as much as 160 kg (350 lb) (roughly matching a tigress or lioness), and the smallest females have low weights of 36 kg (79 lb). Females are typically 10–20% smaller than males. The length of the cats varies from 1.2 to 1.95 m (3.9 to 6.4 ft), and their tails may add a further 45 to 75 cm (18 to 30 in). It stands about 63 to 76 cm (25 to 30 in) tall at the shoulders. Like the slightly smaller Old World leopard, this cat is relatively short and stocky in build.

Further variations in size have been observed across regions and habitats, with size tending to increase from the north to south. A study of the jaguar in the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve on the Mexican Pacific coast, showed ranges of just about 50 kilograms (110 lb), about the size of the Cougar. By contrast, a study of the jaguar in the Brazilian Pantanal region found average weights of 100 kilograms (220 lb), and weights of 136 kilograms (300 lb) or more are not uncommon in old males. Forest jaguars are frequently darker and considerably smaller than those found in open areas (the Pantanal is an open wetland basin), possibly due to the smaller numbers of large, herbivorous prey in forest areas.

A short and stocky limb structure makes the jaguar adept at climbing, crawling and swimming. The head is robust and the jaw extremely powerful. The jaguar has the strongest bite of all felids, capable of biting down with 2,000 pounds-force (8,900 N). This is twice the strength of a Lion and the second strongest of all mammals after the spotted hyena; this strength adaptation allows the jaguar to pierce turtle shells. A comparative study of bite force adjusted for body size ranked it as the top felid, alongside the clouded leopard and ahead of the Lion and Tiger. It has been reported that "an individual jaguar can drag a 360 kg (800 lb) bull 8 m (25 ft) in its jaws and pulverize the heaviest bones". The jaguar hunts wild animals weighing up to 300 kilograms (660 lb) in dense jungle, and its short and sturdy physique is thus an adaptation to its prey and environment. The base coat of the jaguar is generally a tawny yellow, but can range to reddish-brown and black. The cat is covered in rosettes for camouflage in its jungle habitat. The spots vary over individual coats and between individual jaguars: rosettes may include one or several dots, and the shapes of the dots vary. The spots on the head and neck are generally solid, as are those on the tail, where they may merge to form a band. The underbelly, throat and outer surface of the legs and lower flanks are white.

While the jaguar closely resembles the leopard, it is sturdier and heavier, and the two animals can be distinguished by their rosettes: the rosettes on a jaguar's coat are larger, fewer in number, usually darker, and have thicker lines and small spots in the middle that the leopard lacks. Jaguars also have rounder heads and shorter, stockier limbs compared to leopards.

Colour morphism
Colour morphism occurs in the species. A near-black melanistic form occurs regularly. Jaguars with melanism appear entirely black, although their spots are still visible on close examination.

The black morph is less common than the spotted form but, at about six percent of the population, it is several orders of magnitude above the rate of mutation. Hence, it is being supported by selection. Some evidence indicates the melanism allele is dominant. The black form may be an example of heterozygote advantage; breeding in captivity is not yet conclusive on this.

Melanistic jaguars are informally known as black panthers, but like all forms of polymorphism, they do not form a separate species.

Extremely rare albino individuals, sometimes called white panthers, also occur among jaguars, as with the other big cats. As usual with albinos in the wild, selection keeps the frequency close to the rate of mutation.

Reproduction and life cycle
Jaguar females reach sexual maturity at about two years of age, and males at three or four. The cat is believed to mate throughout the year in the wild, although births may increase when prey is plentiful. Research on captive male jaguars supports the year-round mating hypothesis, with no seasonal variation in semen traits and ejaculatory quality; low reproductive success has also been observed in captivity. Female estrus is 6–17 days out of a full 37-day cycle, and females will advertise fertility with urinary scent marks and increased vocalization. Both sexes will range more widely than usual during courtship.

Mating pairs separate after the act, and females provide all parenting. The gestation period lasts 93–105 days; females give birth to up to four cubs, and most commonly to two. The mother will not tolerate the presence of males after the birth of cubs, given a risk of infanticide; this behaviour is also found in the Tiger.

The young are born blind, gaining sight after two weeks. Cubs are weaned at three months, but remain in the birth den for six months before leaving to accompany their mother on hunts. They will continue in their mother's company for one to two years before leaving to establish a territory for themselves. Young males are at first nomadic, jostling with their older counterparts until they succeed in claiming a territory. Typical lifespan in the wild is estimated at around 12–15 years; in captivity, the jaguar lives up to 23 years, placing it among the longest-lived cats.
Social activity

Like most cats, the jaguar is solitary outside mother-cub groups. Adults generally meet only to court and mate (though limited noncourting socialization has been observed anecdotally) and carve out large territories for themselves. Female territories, which range from 25 to 40 km2 in size, may overlap, but the animals generally avoid one another. Male ranges cover roughly twice as much area, varying in size with the availability of game and space, and do not overlap. The jaguar uses scrape marks, urine, and faeces to mark its territory.

Like the other big cats, the jaguar is capable of roaring and does so to warn territorial and mating competitors away; intensive bouts of counter-calling between individuals have been observed in the wild. Their roar often resembles a repetitive cough, and they may also vocalize mews and grunts. Mating fights between males occur, but are rare, and aggression avoidance behaviour has been observed in the wild. When it occurs, conflict is typically over territory: a male's range may encompass that of two or three females, and he will not tolerate intrusions by other adult males.

The jaguar is often described as nocturnal, but is more specifically crepuscular (peak activity around dawn and dusk). Both sexes hunt, but males travel farther each day than females, befitting their larger territories. The jaguar may hunt during the day if game is available and is a relatively energetic feline, spending as much as 50–60% of its time active. The jaguar's elusive nature and the inaccessibility of much of its preferred habitat make it a difficult animal to sight, let alone study.

Hunting and diet
Like all cats, the jaguar is an obligate carnivore, feeding only on meat. It is an opportunistic hunter and its diet encompasses 87 species. The jaguar prefers large prey and will take adult caimans, deer, capybaras, tapirs, peccaries, dogs, foxes, and sometimes even anacondas. However, the cat will eat any small species that can be caught, including frogs, mice, birds, fish, sloths, monkeys, and turtles; a study conducted in Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize, for example, revealed the diets of jaguars there consisted primarily of armadillos and pacas. Some jaguars will also take domestic livestock, including adult cattle and horses.

While the jaguar employs the deep throat-bite and suffocation technique typical among Panthera, it prefers a killing method unique amongst cats: it pierces directly through the temporal bones of the skull between the ears of prey (especially the capybara) with its canine teeth, piercing the brain. This may be an adaptation to "cracking open" turtle shells; following the late Pleistocene extinctions, armoured reptiles such as turtles would have formed an abundant prey base for the jaguar. The skull bite is employed with mammals in particular; with reptiles such as the caiman, the jaguar may leap on to the back of the prey and sever the cervical vertebrae, immobilizing the target. While capable of cracking turtle shells, the jaguar may simply reach into the shell and scoop out the flesh. With prey such as smaller dogs, a paw swipe to the skull may be sufficient to kill it.

The jaguar is a stalk-and-ambush rather than a chase predator. The cat will walk slowly down forest paths, listening for and stalking prey before rushing or ambushing. The jaguar attacks from cover and usually from a target's blind spot with a quick pounce; the species' ambushing abilities are considered nearly peerless in the animal kingdom by both indigenous people and field researchers, and are probably a product of its role as an apex predator in several different environments. The ambush may include leaping into water after prey, as a jaguar is quite capable of carrying a large kill while swimming; its strength is such that carcasses as large as a heifer can be hauled up a tree to avoid flood levels.

On killing prey, the jaguar will drag the carcass to a thicket or other secluded spot. It begins eating at the neck and chest, rather than the midsection. The heart and lungs are consumed, followed by the shoulders. The daily food requirement of a 34-kilogram animal, at the extreme low end of the species' weight range, has been estimated at 1.4 kilograms. For captive animals in the 50–60 kilogram range, more than two kilograms of meat daily are recommended. In the wild, consumption is naturally more erratic; wild cats expend considerable energy in the capture and kill of prey, and may consume up to 25 kilograms of meat at one feeding, followed by periods of famine. Unlike all other species in the Panthera genus, jaguars very rarely attack humans. Most of the scant cases where jaguars turn to taking a human show the animal is either old with damaged teeth or is wounded. Sometimes, if scared or threatened, jaguars in captivity may lash out at zookeepers.

Distribution and habitat

It has been an American cat since crossing the Bering Land Bridge during the Pleistocene epoch; the immediate ancestor of modern animals is Panthera onca augusta, which was larger than the contemporary cat. Its present range extends from Mexico, through Central America and into South America, including much of Amazonian Brazil. The countries included in this range are Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica (particularly on the Osa Peninsula), Ecuador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, the United States and Venezuela. The jaguar is now extinct in El Salvador and Uruguay. It occurs in the 400 km² Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize, the 5,300 km² Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, the approximately 15,000 km2 Manú National Park in Peru, the approximately 26,000 km2 Xingu National Park in Brazil, and numerous other reserves throughout its range.

The inclusion of the United States in the list is based on occasional sightings in the southwest, particularly in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. In the early 20th century, the jaguar's range extended as far north as the Grand Canyon, and as far west as Southern California. The jaguar is a protected species in the United States under the Endangered Species Act, which has stopped the shooting of the animal for its pelt. In 1996 and from 2004 on, wildlife officials in Arizona photographed and documented jaguars in the southern part of the state. Between 2004 and 2007, two or three jaguars have been reported by researchers around Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in southern Arizona. One of them, called 'Macho B', had been previously photographed in 1996 in the area. For any permanent population in the USA to thrive, protection from killing, an adequate prey base, and connectivity with Mexican populations are essential. On 25 February 2009, a 118-lb Jaguar was caught, radio-collared and released in an area southwest of Tucson, Arizona; this is farther north than had previously been expected and represents a sign there may be a permanent breeding population of jaguars within southern Arizona. The animal was later confirmed to be indeed the same male individual ('Macho B') that was photographed in 2004, and is now the oldest known jaguar in the wild (about 15 years old.) On 2 March 2009, Macho B was recaptured and euthanized after he was found to be suffering from kidney failure.

Completion of the United States–Mexico barrier as currently proposed will reduce the viability of any population currently residing in the United States, by reducing gene flow with Mexican populations, and prevent any further northward expansion for the species.

The historic range of the species included much of the southern half of the United States, and in the south extended much farther to cover most of the South American continent. In total, its northern range has receded 1,000 km (621 mi) southward and its southern range 2,000 km (1243 mi) northward. Ice age fossils of the jaguar, dated between 40,000 and 11,500 years ago, have been discovered in the United States, including some at an important site as far north as Missouri. Fossil evidence shows jaguars of up to 190 kg (420 lb), much larger than the contemporary average for the animal.

The habitat of the cat includes the rain forests of South and Central America, open, seasonally flooded wetlands, and dry grassland terrain. Of these habitats, the jaguar much prefers dense forest; the cat has lost range most rapidly in regions of drier habitat, such as the Argentinian pampas, the arid grasslands of Mexico, and the southwestern United States. The cat will range across tropical, subtropical, and dry deciduous forests (including, historically, oak forests in the United States). The jaguar is strongly associated with water, and it often prefers to live by rivers, swamps, and in dense rainforest with thick cover for stalking prey. Jaguars have been found at elevations as high as 3,800 m, but they typically avoid montane forest and are not found in the high plateau of central Mexico or in the Andes.

Substantial evidence exists for a colony of nonnative, melanistic leopards or jaguars inhabiting the rainforests around Sydney, Australia. A local report compiled statements from over 450 individuals recounting their stories of sighting large black cats in the area, and confidential NSW Government documents regarding the matter proved wildlife authorities were so concerned about the big cats and the danger to humans, they commissioned an expert to catch one. The three-day hunt later failed, but ecologist Johannes J. Bauer warned: "Difficult as it seems to accept, the most likely explanation is the presence of a large, feline predator. In this area, [it is] most likely a leopard, less likely a jaguar."

Ecological role
The adult jaguar is an apex predator, meaning it exists at the top of its food chain and is not preyed on in the wild. The jaguar has also been termed a keystone species, as it is assumed, through controlling the population levels of prey such as herbivorous and granivorous mammals, apex felids maintain the structural integrity of forest systems. However, accurately determining what effect species like the jaguar have on ecosystems is difficult, because data must be compared from regions where the species is absent as well as its current habitats, while controlling for the effects of human activity. It is accepted that mid-sized prey species undergo population increases in the absence of the keystone predators, and this has been hypothesized to have cascading negative effects. However, field work has shown this may be natural variability and the population increases may not be sustained. Thus, the keystone predator hypothesis is not accepted by all scientists.

The jaguar also has an effect on other predators. The jaguar and the Cougar, the next-largest feline of the Americas, are often sympatric (related species sharing overlapping territory) and have often been studied in conjunction. Where sympatric with the jaguar, the Cougar is smaller than normal and is smaller than the local jaguars. The jaguar tends to take larger prey and the Cougar smaller, reducing the latter's size. This situation may be advantageous to the Cougar. Its broader prey niche, including its ability to take smaller prey, may give it an advantage over the jaguar in human-altered landscapes; while both are classified as near-threatened species, the Cougar has a significantly larger current distribution.

Conservation status
Jaguar populations are rapidly declining. The animal is considered Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, meaning it may be threatened with extinction in the near future. The loss of parts of its range, including its virtual elimination from its historic northern areas and the increasing fragmentation of the remaining range, have contributed to this status. The 1960s had particularly significant declines, with more than 15,000 jaguar skins brought out of the Brazilian Amazon yearly; the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of 1973 brought about a sharp decline in the pelt trade. Detailed work performed under the auspices of the Wildlife Conservation Society revealed the animal has lost 37% of its historic range, with its status unknown in an additional 18%. More encouragingly, the probability of long-term survival was considered high in 70% of its remaining range, particularly in the Amazon basin and the adjoining Gran Chaco and Pantanal.

The major risks to the jaguar include deforestation across its habitat, increasing competition for food with human beings, poaching, hurricanes in northern parts of its range, and the behaviour of ranchers who will often kill the cat where it preys on livestock. When adapted to the prey, the jaguar has been shown to take cattle as a large portion of its diet; while land clearance for grazing is a problem for the species, the jaguar population may have increased when cattle were first introduced to South America, as the animals took advantage of the new prey base. This willingness to take livestock has induced ranch owners to hire full-time jaguar hunters, and the cat is often shot on sight.

The jaguar is regulated as an Appendix I species under CITES: all international trade in jaguars or their parts is prohibited. All hunting of jaguars is prohibited in Argentina, Belize, Colombia, French Guiana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, the United States (where it is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act), Uruguay and Venezuela. Hunting of jaguars is restricted to "problem animals" in Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru, while trophy hunting is still permitted in Bolivia. The species has no legal protection in Ecuador or Guyana.

Current conservation efforts often focus on educating ranch owners and promoting ecotourism. The jaguar is generally defined as an umbrella species – its home range and habitat requirements are sufficiently broad that, if protected, numerous other species of smaller range will also be protected. Umbrella species serve as "mobile links" at the landscape scale, in the jaguar's case through predation. Conservation organizations may thus focus on providing viable, connected habitat for the jaguar, with the knowledge other species will also benefit.

Given the inaccessibility of much of the species' range, particularly the central Amazon, estimating jaguar numbers is difficult. Researchers typically focus on particular bioregions, thus species-wide analysis is scant. In 1991, 600–1,000 (the highest total) were estimated to be living in Belize. A year earlier, 125–180 jaguars were estimated to be living in Mexico's 4,000-km2 (2400-mi2) Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, with another 350 in the state of Chiapas. The adjoining Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala, with an area measuring 15,000 km2 (9,000 mi2), may have 465–550 animals. Work employing GPS telemetry in 2003 and 2004 found densities of only six to seven jaguars per 100 km2 in the critical Pantanal region, compared with 10 to 11 using traditional methods; this suggests the widely used sampling methods may inflate the actual numbers of cats.

In the past, conservation of jaguars sometimes occurred through the protection of jaguar "hotspots". These hotspots, described as jaguar conservation units, were large areas populated by about 50 jaguars. However, some researchers recently determined, to maintain a robust sharing of the jaguar gene pool necessary for maintaining the species, it is important that the jaguars are interconnected. To facilitate this, a new project, the Paseo del Jaguar, has been established to connect several jaguar hotspots.

Jaguar in the United States
The only extant cat native to North America that roars, the jaguar was first observed and recorded in the United States by Thomas Jefferson in 1799. Jefferson's zoological report included jaguar in the fauna of the Ohio River Valley portion of West Virginia. There are multiple zoological reports of jaguar in California, two as far north as Monterey in 1814 (Langsdorff) and 1826 (Beechey). The coastal Diegueño (Kumeyaay people) of San Diego and Cahuilla Indians of Palm Springs had words for jaguar and the cats persisted there until about 1860. The only recorded description of an active jaguar den with breeding adults and kittens in the U.S. was in the Tehachapi Mountains of California prior to 1860. In 1843, Rufus Sage, an explorer and experienced observer recorded jaguar present on the headwaters of the North Platte River 30–50 miles north of Long's Peak in Colorado. Cabot's 1544 map has a drawing of jaguar ranging over the Pennsylvania and Ohio valleys. Historically, the jaguar was recorded in far eastern Texas, and the northern parts of Arizona and New Mexico. However, since the 1940s, the jaguar has been limited to the southern parts of these states. Although less reliable than zoological records, native American artefacts with possible jaguar motifs range from the Pacific Northwest to Pennsylvania and Florida.

Jaguars were rapidly eliminated by Anglo-Americans in the United States, along with most other large predators. The last female jaguar in the United States was shot by a hunter in Arizona's White Mountains in 1963. In 1969, Arizona outlawed most jaguar hunting, but with no females known to be at large, there was little hope the population could rebound. During the next 25 years, only two jaguars were documented in the United States, both killed: a large male shot in 1971 near the Santa Cruz River by two teenage duck hunters, and another male cornered by hounds in the Dos Cabezas Mountains in 1986. Then in 1996, Warner Glenn, a rancher and hunting guide from Douglas, Arizona, came across a jaguar in the Peloncillo Mountains and became a jaguar researcher, placing webcams which recorded four more Arizona jaguars.

On November 19, 2011, a 200-pound male jaguar was photographed near Cochise in southern Arizona by a hunter after being treed by his dogs (the animal left the scene unharmed). This is the last jaguar seen since another male, named Macho B, died shortly after being radio-collared by Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) officials in March, 2009. In the Macho B incident, a former AGFD subcontractor pleaded guilty to violating the endangered species act for trapping the cat and a Game and Fish employee was fired for lying to federal investigators. None of the other four male jaguars sighted in Arizona in the last 15 years have been seen since 2006. However, a second 2011 sighting of an Arizona jaguar was reported by a Homeland Security border pilot in June 2011, and conservation researchers sighted two jaguars within 30 miles of the Mexico/U.S. border in 2010.

Legal action by the Center for Biological Diversity led to federal listing of the cat on the endangered species list in 1997. However, on January 7, 2008, George W. Bush appointee H. Dale Hall, Director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, signed a recommendation to abandon jaguar recovery as a federal goal under the Endangered Species Act. Critics, including the Center of Biological Diversity and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, were concerned the jaguar was being sacrificed for the government's new border fence, which is to be built along many of the cat's typical crossings between the United States and Mexico. In 2010, the Obama Administration reversed the Bush Administration policy and pledged to protect "critical habitat" and draft a recovery plan for the species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under a court order to develop a jaguar recovery plan and designate critical habitat for the cats
Last edited by Taipan on December 30th, 2017, 5:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

Joined: February 11th, 2012, 7:29 am

April 27th, 2012, 10:58 am #2

Jaguar predation on a Capybara.

Jaguar Spotted In Central Mexico For First Time In 100 Years

ScienceDaily (Feb. 10, 2009) — The jaguar Panthera onca has become an animal in danger of extinction over recent decades, due to the fragmentation and deterioration of its habitat, as well as hunting and illegal animal smuggling. As a result of this vulnerability, no individuals have been seen in the centre of Mexico since the start of the 20th Century. However, Mexican and Spanish scientists have now managed to photograph a male jaguar in this region.

The lack of published records about the jaguar Panthera onca in the State of Mexico and concerns about whether this animal may have become extinct in the forests of the 674.10 km2 Sierra Nanchititla Natural Reserve led to researchers from the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico (UAEM) and the University of Alicante (UA) successfully seeking out and monitoring this feline.

The Mexican-Spanish research project, which has been published recently in The Southwestern Naturalist, includes the first documented recording of Panthera Onca in the centre of Mexico, in the Río Balsas river basin. "The photographs provide information about new recording sites, and allow us to deduce that the area where the animal was observed may be a corridor connecting jaguar populations," Octavio Monroy-Vilchis, lead author and a researcher at the UAEM, tells SINC.

The researchers carried out 86 interviews with inhabitants of villages near the study area between October 2002 and December 2004, as well as collecting feline dropping samples and installing automatic photographic detection systems.

"Even though not one of the interviews mentioned sightings of jaguars, we obtained three photographs of a male, and ten of the 132 excrement samples found have been attributed to the jaguar", says Monroy-Vilchis.

According to members of the local Wildlife Conservation Society, the general area of the Río Balsas river basin is a priority area for verifying the presence of jaguars, since this "could act as a corridor for them to move around".

The experts say there are 15 areas in which it is unknown whether these animals still exist, whether their populations are stable, and if their habitat is adequate. These areas are important for scientific studies, because they could include crucial zones for the felines' long-term survival.

The jaguar's habitat, a limited territory

Monitoring the largest feline in the Americas in the centre of Mexico meant the Mexican scientists had to travel 1,360 kilometres in search of clues and footprints. The Spanish researchers financed the cameras and analysed a total of 1,800 data events collected by them, which were placed in the Natural Reserve.

Of all this material, only three photographs deposited with the image library of mammals in the Sierra Nanchititla Biological Station (UAEM) showed a male individual.

Despite the photographs taken, the researchers themselves were unable to see the animal. "The lack of evidence highlights the fact that the jaguar is more elusive than other felines, and that its presence in the area is sporadic - possibly because it has access to other resources near to Michoacán and Guerrero," says Monroy-Vilchis.

The recording of this individual and the presence of excrement in a range of sites in the south east of the State of Mexico now mean its known range has been extended to 400 km to the south east of Arroyo Seco (Querétano), 27 km to the north east of Purísima de Arista, and 140 km to the north of Puerto del Gallo (Guerrero).

According to the scientists, the fact that the animal was captured on film at 1,845 metres "supports the theory that jaguars travel along the sides of mountains because their habitat has been fragmented by hunting and other human activities", says the scientist.

One of the three photographs of the jaguar taken during the research project in the centre of Mexico. ... 134448.htm

Jaguar mums give up baby secrets

Page last updated at 14:33 GMT, Friday, 29 May 2009 15:33 UK
Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

Camera trap shot of a jaguar in Corcovado National Park

Jaguars are one of the most elusive of large animals, reluctant to be filmed or tracked in their natural habitat.

But now biologists have finally managed to learn one of the big cat's secrets; how often it gives birth.

An ongoing study in Costa Rica, one of the last strongholds of the jaguar, has revealed that females in the wild give birth every 22 to 24 months.

Knowing the reproductive behaviour of the species will be vital information in helping to protect the species.

Numbers of jaguars, the third largest of all cat species and the largest in the New World, are declining.

The big cat is occasionally sighted in Arizona and New Mexico in the US, and populations remain within Mexico and south through Central America and into South America, including much of Amazonian Brazil.

But the species is listed as Near Threatened by the World Conservation Union.

If conservationists are to estimate how the last remaining populations of jaguar might grow, they need to know three things: how many cubs females have in each litter, how many of those cubs survive on average, and how often females give birth to new litters.

Jaguar and camera trap attached to tree

But most information about the reproductive habits of jaguars comes from observations in zoos, which may not reflect how jaguars reproduce in the wild. Even in captivity, researchers have been rarely able to document how often females give birth to new litters.

So Eduardo Carrillo and Joel Saenz of the National University in Heredia, Costa Rica and Todd Fuller of the University of Massachusetts, in Amherst, US embarked on an ongoing study of jaguars living in the Corcovado National Park in west Costa Rica.

The study began in 1990 after Carrillo saw a female jaguar walking with a single cub across a beach in the park during the day.

"At that time there were few jaguar studies and the lack of information was an important issue when making management decisions about jaguar conservation," says Carrillo. "So in 1994 we decided to radio mark jaguars. In 2003 we began using camera traps."

During the study, they found that jaguars in the park feed mainly on peccaries and marine turtles.

The diet surprised the biologists because an adult jaguar is capable of eating any animal that crosses its path, including people, though there is no record of a wild jaguar ever having attacked a person in the wild.

An elusive jaguar caught on camera one month ago

They also managed to follow a single female jaguar for three and a half years, by using the radio collar to triangulate her position and identifying her particular paw prints left in the mud.

In March one year, they saw the female being attended to by an adult male. By late May or early June she gave birth, and was seen accompanied by a single cub in July.

That cub remained with its mother for 19 to 20 months. Then some 22 months after she had first given birth, Carrillo noticed she was again pregnant, and was seen with a new cub a month or two later.

That confirms that wild jaguars seem to give birth once every 22 to 24 months, and that juvenile jaguars leave the company of their mother after 18 to 24 months, the team report in the journal Mammalian Biology.

Jaguars are thought to give birth to more than cub on average, though it is unclear how many usually survive until adulthood.

"One of the main questions about jaguars is their natural birthing habits," says Carrillo. "We have little knowledge about this until now."

However, despite the team's camera traps recording pictures of adult jaguars, the mothers are still proving protective of their offspring.

"We have pictures of pregnant females, but we have never taken a picture of a female jaguar with its cubs." ... 074124.stm

Jaguars' Hunting Patterns Revealed

By Zoë Macintosh, LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 16 June 2010 11:30 am ET

Brazilian ranchers troubled by the tendency of jaguars to stealthily kill cattle may be justified in their fears, according to new research on the mysterious cats' hunting patterns.

Jaguars in the Pantanal wetlands of central Brazil hunt native species, such as giant anteaters, more often than cows, scientists discovered. But when they do kill cattle, they do so at rates exceeding rancher estimates.

The results stand in sharp contrast to government and nonprofit groups' beliefs in the over-exaggeration of cattle rancher losses, in a region where 95 percent of the ranches are privately owned and have been around for more than 200 years, the researchers say.

Documenting hunting and feeding of jaguars "is extremely difficult because of their nocturnal and secretive behavior," the study scientists wrote in the June issue of the Journal of Mammalogy.

Objective, unbiased data was only possible through technology similar to that now used to track cougars, wolves and coyotes in North America.

Collared jaguars roam

Ten jaguars outfitted with collars that sent GPS signals of their whereabouts every two hours, produced a volume of data on their hunting paths and areas of concentrated use such as kill sites, dens and bed sites in the Pantanel – the world's largest freshwater wetland. Every 21 days of data collection, a team of researchers visited a few of these areas in order to identify prey remains.

A total of 11,787 GPS locations collected from October 2001 to April 2004 resulted in 1,105 areas of high jaguar use. Prey remains were found and logged at more than 400 kill sites. Just over a third of the animals killed by jaguars were cattle, while the remaining 68 percent were native species, including caiman (a crocodilian), peccaries (piglike mammals), wild hogs, marsh deer and giant anteaters.

While a recent survey suggested ranchers estimated losing about 70 head of cattle annually out of 6,000 head, the study's results for kill rates showed that during a dry year they usually lost about 390 head, and during a wet year, around 118 head.

Another landscape entirely

A major jaguar stronghold outside of the Amazonian rainforest, the Pantanal wetlands cover an area the size of Iowa frequently flooded in about 3 to 7 feet (1 to 2 meters) of water from rainfall.

"There are times literally in the field when you're on horseback and the water is up to the horse's belly," researcher Eric Gese at Utah State University told Livescience.

The jaguars "don’t mind the water at all," Gese said, but the study revealed the carnivores' hunting choices are largely influenced by seasonal rainfall and water levels, as the ebb and flow of water determines their access to certain animals.

During the wet season, when cattle are scarce and cloistered among elevated plateaus, jaguars predominantly killed the numerous alligators in the area. In the dry season the pattern reversed and cattle killing peaked, as ranchers moved their cattle to the lower grounds to utilize the lush grasses exposed in the formerly flooded plains.

"As they spread the cattle out, they're just exposed to more jaguars. And the jaguars, being the large carnivore as they are, take advantage of the availability of the animals," Gese said.

Lots of cats

Other results of the landmark study, which also collected data on spatial ecology and some interactions, including the insight that jaguars were densely populated, with about 10 to 11 cats per 100 square kilometers (39 square miles) in the area studied, and "surprisingly social."

"We found that they actually encounter each other and spend more time together than we ever anticipated. That was a surprise. Not like prides of jaguars, nothing like that: we had males travelling together, and we didn't know if they were brothers," Gese said. "And the density of jaguars recorded in that area was greater than anything we encountered ... that was astounding."

"It was quite mind-blowing. So, there are a lot of cats there," Gese added.

Recognizing that the ranchers have "a real problem," yet the region's livestock supports jaguars, Gese said his team of scientists was trying to work with officials to get them to figure out a compromise and accept some form of coexistence.

"How they deal with that is up to them. How they want to enact that. This is the first time that somebody has said, 'Look there's data! They lose a lot of cattle to jaguars,'" Gese said. ... 00616.html

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June 10th, 2012, 5:04 am #3

First Photos Ever of Jaguars in Colombian Oil Palm Plantation

ScienceDaily (June 6, 2012) — Panthera's camera traps recently produced the first photographic evidence of wild jaguars with cubs in an oil palm plantation in Colombia, including photos of two male jaguars and a female jaguar with cubs, and a video of a jaguar male.

Placed in the Magdalena River valley, these camera traps were set to gather new data about the impact of Colombia's ever-increasing oil palm plantations on jaguars. Panthera's scientists are working to understand the implications of these habitat changes on jaguars and their ability to travel and reproduce, as well as the impacts palm plantations have on their prey species.

In Latin America and Asia, oil palm plantations result in the clearing of expansive tracts of forest on which thousands of animal and plant species depend. Data have shown that in Indonesia, tigers avoid plantations, which serve as major barriers restricting their movement, and gene flow. In Latin America, Panthera's scientists are investigating whether oil palm plantations have similar effects on jaguars.

Rare photos of a female jaguar and her cubs taken with Panthera's camera traps confirm that, at least in some cases, jaguars are willing to move through oil palm. Importantly, the photos come from a small plantation adjacent to a protected area with some indigenous habitat present -- perhaps the best case scenario for fostering jaguar use of palm oil tracts.

Panthera's Northern South America Jaguar Program Director, Dr. Esteban Payan, explained, "Typically, jaguars can move across human-dominated landscapes by travelling through riparian forests or using road underpasses, but until now, scientists had no photographic proof that jaguars entered oil palm developments in this region."

Payan added, "Given the extensive amount of jaguar habitat overtaken by oil palm plantations in Colombia, we hope that certain plantations can be part of the Jaguar Corridor, enabling jaguars to reach areas with little or no human disturbances."

Panthera's Jaguar Corridor Initiative seeks to connect and protect jaguar populations from Argentina to Mexico within human-dominated landscapes, such as oil palm plantations, to preserve the species' genetic diversity. Cupped between Panama to the north and a handful of South American countries, Colombia holds the key to the jaguar's passage from Central America to South America.

Panthera's Jaguar Program Executive Director, Dr. Howard Quigley, stated, "Human development in the shape of large monocultures, like oil palm plantations, are drastically changing the face of the planet, creating refugees out of wild cats by breaking up their habitats and forcing them to live within smaller, often degraded, and more isolated pockets of land. Data collected through Panthera's Jaguar Corridor Initiative are critical for oil palm growers, national policy makers and local governments in their decision making so they can account for the needs of jaguars across their range and minimize impacts on wildlife."

Panthera promotes sustainable oil palm practices, asking farmers to adhere to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil Recommendations to help curb the negative impacts of extensive agriculture development on biodiversity and enable initiatives like the Jaguar Corridor to become a reality.

Quigley added, "Our data suggest that plantations can be part of a landscape mosaic that jaguars will use. But careful planning that avoids large-scale replacement of forest with huge palm oil areas will be essential if we want to avoid the kind of isolation that tigers now suffer."

A jaguar mother with her two cubs in a Colombian oil palm plantation. ... 132422.htm
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June 28th, 2013, 5:00 am #4

Rare male jaguar photographed in SE Arizona

By Associated Press on Thu, Jun 27, 2013
POSTED: 8:28 am

This photo released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a remote camera that photographed a rare male jaguar west of the proposed Rosemont Mine site in the mountains southeast of Tucson.

TUCSON (AP) — New photos show that a rare male jaguar has been roaming the Santa Rita Mountains’ eastern flank for at least eight months.

The Arizona Daily Star reports that remote cameras have photographed the big cat in five locations on seven occasions since October. Photos were provided to the Star this week by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Federally financed remote cameras photographed the jaguar west of the proposed Rosemont Mine site in the mountains southeast of Tucson.

This is the only jaguar known to live in the United States since a 15-year-old known as Macho B died in Arizona in March 2009.

The photographs come as federal wildlife officials consider designating more than 1,300 square miles in New Mexico and Arizona as critical habitat for the jaguar. ... izona.html
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September 7th, 2013, 5:04 am #5

Jaguar Kills Caiman

On the Prowl
On August 25, photographer Paul Donahue got a call: A large male jaguar had been spotted on the hunt in central Brazil's Tres Irmãos River.
Donahue, who tracks jaguar sightings for ecotourism operator Southwild in Mato Grasso, arrived at the scene to find an animal named Mick Jaguar hidden in thick grass, stalking a nearby group of caiman yacaré, a crocodile relative native to South America.
"Over the next 30 to 40 minutes we watched the jaguar very slowly slink along in the direction of the yacaré," he wrote in his field notes.
The largest of South America's cats, jaguars are good swimmers and regularly prey on fish, turtles, and caimans. They also eat larger animals such as deer, peccaries, capybaras, and tapirs.

All Wet
The jaguar slipped into the water and swam across to the sandbar (pictured), where a roughly 120-pound (54-kilogram) yacaré was basking in the sun, facing away from the water and the approaching predator, Donahue said.
"A week earlier we had watched this same cat approach caiman on the same sandbar without success, and we were expecting a similar result this afternoon," he wrote.
"Just the same, our boat was positioned perfectly, with the sun behind us and very close to the yacaré, so whatever happened was going to happen right in front of us."

Reaching the sandbar, the big cat rose slowly out of the water, and then suddenly pounced on the yacaré.
Named Mick Jaguar, the animal—known for its damaged right eye—had been observed before in 2011 and previously in 2013. Since 2004 Donahue and colleagues have recorded about 88 jaguars in the area of the Meeting of the Waters State Park, and since mid-June they've identified 22 individuals.
The big cats currently live in isolated populations scattered across North and South America, which is part of the reason the species is listed as "near threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Ready for the Kill
Jaguars are ambush killers, dispatching their prey by piercing the skull or neck with a single speedy bite. Their strategy differs from that of most other cats, which grab their prey's throat and suffocate it.

Fatal Bite
The jaguar grabbed the yacaré first with its right front paw, then bit the reptile's back a little below the head.
The predator then quickly adjusted its bite to the base of the yacaré's skull—the manner in which a jaguar normally kills—then wrestled the yacaré into a dragging position and headed back across the inlet, Donahue recounted in his field notes.

Speedy End
The jaguar carries off his prize, which took just a few seconds to capture, Donahue said.
"We all just stood there with our mouths hanging open, not believing what we had just witnessed," he said.
"We had seen kills before, but nothing so spectacular and horrific nor at such close range. It's made me think a lot about the fragility of life and the fine line between life and death." ... il-attack/
Last edited by Taipan on December 30th, 2017, 5:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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January 28th, 2014, 7:25 am #6

Dwindling jaguar population facing extinction

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The jaguar's disappearance would cause major environmental imbalance in the 'Mata Atlantica'

The jaguar could soon become extinct in Brazil's tropical Atlantic forest, threatening the shrinking primitive forest itself, Brazilian scientists warn.

A study by the Brazilian conservation authority Cenap indicates the adult jaguar population in the region may have fallen to just 250, "an 80 per cent slide over the past 15 years."

And just a fifth of the remaining jaguars are of reproductive age, the study asserts.

The 'Mata Atlantica' or Atlantic forest ecosystem, home to unique species and comprising a variety of tropical forest habitats, has itself lost more than 90 per cent of its original volume over the centuries.

It once made up more than 1.2 million square kilometres — roughly 25 per cent of the Amazon region and around 15 per cent of Brazilian territory.

But deforestation, ranching and increased urbanisation have seen that shrink to just 28,600 square kilometres, according to the SOS Mata Atlantica Foundation.

The habitat loss puts pressure on the jaguars both in terms of seeking food sources and from hunting. Agricultural workers will, for example, not hesitate to kill a jaguar if it has eaten a cow, biologist Pedro Galetti told Folha.

Yet with the jaguar at the top of the region's food chain, its slumping numbers pose a clear threat to forest biodiversity, warns Cenap head Ronaldo Morato.

Morato told the Folha de Sao Paulo daily the jaguar's disappearance would cause major environmental imbalance and "the prompt demise of the Atlantic forest."

Cenap will next week embark upon new research to monitor the remaining jaguars using satellite imaging to track their movements.

Given widespread alarm at the decline of the forest, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization conferred world heritage status on the region in 1999. ... 933312.htm
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February 4th, 2016, 6:20 am #7

El Jefe, only wild jaguar in US, captured on video in Arizona

Posted about 4 hours ago

The first publicly released video of the only known wild jaguar in the United States has provided a rare glimpse into the life of the endangered creature.

The rare cat, named El Jefe, which means "the boss" in Spanish, was captured on remote sensor cameras in the Santa Rita Mountains in Arizona by the Conservation CATalyst and the Centre for Biological Diversity.

Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate with the centre, said it was a "big thrill" to know the "amazing cat" was "right out there".

"El Jefe has been living more or less in our backyard for more than three years now. It's our job to make sure that his home is protected and he can get what he needs to survive," he said in a statement.

The male cat has been photographed in the Santa Ritas over the past few years, but this is the first time footage has been released.

"Studying these elusive cats anywhere is extremely difficult, but following the only known individual in the US is especially challenging," said Chris Bugbee, a biologist with Conservation CATalyst.

"We use our specially-trained scat detection dog and spent three years tracking in rugged mountains, collecting data and refining camera sites; these videos represent the peak of our efforts."

Aletris Neils, executive director of Conservation CATalyst, said the video would help researchers unlock "the mysteries of these cryptic cats".

"We are able to determine he is an adult male jaguar, currently in prime condition. Every new piece of information is important for conserving northern jaguars and we look forward to building upon on these data so that we can collectively make better decisions on how to manage these fascinating and endangered cats," he said.

The Centre for Biological Diversity hopes El Jefe will soon be joined by more jaguars that wander up from Mexico.

He is the last verified wild jaguar in the country. The last wild female jaguar was shot by a hunter in 1963 in Arizona's Mogollon Rim.

Jaguars are the third-largest cats in the world after tigers and lions.

They have disappeared from their US range over the past 150 years, primarily due to habitat loss. ... fe/7139760

Joined: February 11th, 2012, 7:29 am

November 1st, 2016, 4:49 am #8

Jaguar scat study suggests restricted movement in areas of conservation importance in Mesoamerica
Noninvasive genetic survey on wild Mesoamerican jaguars is largest of its kind, reveals conservation priority

Date: October 26, 2016
Source: American Museum of Natural History

A photo of "Junior," a jaguar conservation ambassador at the Belize Zoo.
Credit: © Claudia Wultsch

A research group led by the American Museum of Natural History and global wild cat conservation organization Panthera has published the largest gene-based survey of its kind on wild jaguar populations in Mesoamerica. The analysis, published in the journal PLOS ONE, is based on nearly 450 jaguar scat samples collected in Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. This work identifies areas of conservation concern for Mesoamerican jaguars and underscores the importance of large-scale genetic monitoring efforts when prioritizing conservation and management efforts for this near-threatened, and elusive, carnivore species.

"Mesoamerica has one of the highest deforestation rates worldwide, potentially limiting movement and genetic connectivity in forest-dependent jaguars across this fragmented landscape. Large-scale conservation genetics studies on wild jaguars spanning across several range countries assessing these threats are rare and suffer from low sample sizes for this region," said Claudia Wultsch, the lead author of the paper, a scientist in the Museum's Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, and a conservation research fellow at Panthera. "Over the last 100 years, jaguars in Mesoamerica have been pushed out from more than 77 percent of their historic range."

To get a better idea of the genetic health and connectivity of jaguar populations in this area and the effectiveness of the existing wildlife corridors (i.e., stretches of habitat that facilitate movement between local populations), the researchers turned to DNA obtained from field-collected jaguar scat.

This non-invasive technique lets researchers gather large DNA sample sizes of difficult-to-study wildlife species, such as big cats, without physically capturing, handling, or disturbing the animals. Since these samples quickly degrade in the warm and humid conditions of the tropical countries, however, a great deal of laboratory work has to be done to successfully analyze the DNA.

"We believe that these jaguars were once continuously distributed over the whole landscape of Mesoamerica, but human activity has resulted in smaller populations that are isolated from other groups," said George Amato, director of the Museum's Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics and the paper's senior author. "We want to know whether this fragmentation is resulting in reduced gene flow or inbreeding or other things that might be detrimental to the animals. But most importantly, we want to figure out ways to reconnect these populations or, even if they're not completely isolated, to engage in activities that allow jaguars to move more freely across the landscape. One of the only ways to do this is through genetic analysis."

The researchers analyzed DNA from 115 individual jaguars spread across five Mesoamerican countries. Overall, they found moderate levels of genetic variation in the jaguars, with the lowest diversity in Mexico, followed by Honduras. Low levels of genetic diversity could decrease reproductive fitness and resistance to disease, and generally lower animals' potential to adapt to a changing environment.

When assessing genetic connectivity in Mesoamerican jaguars, the scientists found low levels of gene flow between jaguars in the Selva Maya -- the largest contiguous tropical forest north of the Amazon, spreading over northern Guatemala, central Belize, and southern Mexico -- and those in Honduras. This suggests that there is limited jaguar movement between these two areas, which is somewhat surprising since they are so geographically close. Although more data are needed to fill gaps in the study, the authors say that the region connecting these sites faces rapid land-cover changes, which have severely increased over the last two decades, putting remaining stepping-stone habitats for jaguars at further risk. This region represents a conservation priority and the authors recommend continued management and maintenance of jaguar corridors and mitigation of jaguars' main threats (e.g., human-wildlife conflict).

"Large-scale conservation strategies such as Panthera's Jaguar Corridor Initiative, which are instrumental to protect broadly distributed species such as jaguars, maintain their connectivity, and by doing so to ensure their long-term survival, need to incorporate genetic monitoring of wild populations to fully understand how these species respond to environmental changes and increasing levels of human impacts," Wultsch said.

Story Source: American Museum of Natural History. "Jaguar scat study suggests restricted movement in areas of conservation importance in Mesoamerica: Noninvasive genetic survey on wild Mesoamerican jaguars is largest of its kind, reveals conservation priority." ScienceDaily. (accessed October 31, 2016).

Journal Reference:
Claudia Wultsch, Anthony Caragiulo, Isabela Dias-Freedman, Howard Quigley, Salisa Rabinowitz, George Amato. Genetic Diversity and Population Structure of Mesoamerican Jaguars (Panthera onca): Implications for Conservation and Management. PLOS ONE, 2016; 11 (10): e0162377 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0162377

Mesoamerican jaguars (Panthera onca) have been extirpated from over 77% of their historic range, inhabiting fragmented landscapes at potentially reduced population sizes. Maintaining and restoring genetic diversity and connectivity across human-altered landscapes has become a major conservation priority; nonetheless large-scale genetic monitoring of natural populations is rare. This is the first regional conservation genetic study of jaguars to primarily use fecal samples collected in the wild across five Mesoamerican countries: Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. We genotyped 445 jaguar fecal samples and examined patterns of genetic diversity and connectivity among 115 individual jaguars using data from 12 microsatellite loci. Overall, moderate levels of genetic variation were detected (NA = 4.50 ± 1.05, AR = 3.43 ± 0.22, HE = 0.59 ± 0.04), with Mexico having the lowest genetic diversity, followed by Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and Costa Rica. Population-based gene flow measures (FST = 0.09 to 0.15, Dest = 0.09 to 0.21), principal component analysis, and Bayesian clustering applied in a hierarchical framework revealed significant genetic structure in Mesoamerican jaguars, roughly grouping individuals into four genetic clusters with varying levels of admixture. Gene flow was highest among Selva Maya jaguars (northern Guatemala and central Belize), whereas genetic differentiation among all other sampling sites was moderate. Genetic subdivision was most pronounced between Selva Maya and Honduran jaguars, suggesting limited jaguar movement between these close geographic regions and ultimately refuting the hypothesis of contemporary panmixia. To maintain a critical linkage for jaguars dispersing through the Mesoamerican landscape and ensure long-term viability of this near threatened species, we recommend continued management and maintenance of jaguar corridors. The baseline genetic data provided by this study underscores the importance of understanding levels of genetic diversity and connectivity to making informed management and conservation decisions with the goal to maintain functional connectivity across the region. ... ne.0162377

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December 30th, 2017, 5:43 am #9

Journal Reference:
Hayward, M.W, et al. Prey Preferences of the Jaguar Panthera onca Reflect the Post-Pleistocene Demise of Large Prey Front. Ecol. Evol., 25 January 2016 |

Documenting the impacts of the Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions on predator-prey interactions is a challenge because of the incomplete fossil record and depauperate extant community structure. We used a comparative ecological approach to investigate whether the existing prey preference patterns of jaguars Panthera onca were potentially affected by the Pleistocene extinctions in the Americas compared with large felids in Africa and Asia. We reviewed the literature and found 25 studies reporting 3214 jaguar kills recorded throughout the species' distribution. We found that jaguars significantly preferred capybara Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris and giant anteater Myrmecophaga tridactyla, and avoided agoutis, carnivorans, primates, black-eared opossum Didelphis marsupialis and tapirs. Generalized linear models showed that jaguars select prey primarily based on socio-ecological and behavioral traits (abundance and herd size), rather than morphological characteristics (body size). Nonetheless, their accessible prey weight range was 6–60 kg, preferred prey weight range was 45–85 kg, and mean mass of significantly preferred prey was 32 ± 13 kg leading to a predator to prey body mass ratio of 1:0.53, which is much less than that of other solitary felids (although 1:0.84 may be the relationship with the smallest jaguars). Compared with other large, solitary felids, jaguars have an unusual predator to prey body mass ratio, show limited effect of prey morphology as a driver of prey selection, lack evidence of optimal foraging beyond their preferred prey, and a lack of preferential hunting on Cetartiodactyla herbivores. These features, coupled with the reduction in jaguar body mass since the Pleistocene, suggest that the loss of larger potential prey items within the preferred and accessible weight ranges at the end-Pleistocene still affects jaguar predatory behavior. It may be that jaguars survived this mass extinction event by preferentially preying on relatively small species. ... 00148/full

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December 30th, 2017, 5:48 am #10

Jaguar conservation depends on neighbors' attitudes

December 28, 2017, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

A jaguar named Aquiles caught in a camera trap image taken in Cana, Panama. The number one cause of jaguar deaths in Panama is retaliation for livestock predation. Enclosing livestock in corrals during the night can significantly reduce encounters with predators. Credit: Ricardo Moreno

According to a new survey of residents living near two major national parks in Panama, jaguars deserve increased protection. Nature and wildlife are considered national treasures. But because most residents still support road-building in the parks, the survey team—including Ricardo Moreno, a Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute research associate—recommends further education to emphasize the connection between healthy ecosystems and jaguar survival.

"Attitudes of stakeholder groups are especially important to consider, as they can significantly affect policy, thus making the foundations of carnivore management as social and political as they are scientific," the study concludes.

Cerro Hoya National Park is an isolated tropical forest remnant (325 square kilometers, 125 square miles) on Panama's Pacific coast, whereas Darién National Park is Panama's most extensive park (5,790 square kilometers, 2235 square miles) in the area between Panama and Colombia, the only gap in the Pan-American highway from Alaska to Chile.

"According to our study, there is more human—jaguar conflict in Darién National Park, probably because communities are near larger tracts of unbroken forest, which is much better jaguar habitat," Moreno said. "Ironically, the respondents' ideas about roads into the parks are likely to increase this conflict and make effective park management significantly more challenging."

Moreno's jaguar camera-trapping work is featured in the new Smithsonian Channel production, Panama's Animal Highway. He was recently chosen as one of National Geographic's 2017 Emerging Explorers.

Ninon Meyer, Fundación Yaguara Panama, inspects fresh jaguar skin. This jaguar was killed by a farmer after it killed several animals on his farm. Ricardo Moreno, research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and founder of Fundación Yaguara seeks funds to compensate farmers for their losses. Credit: Ricardo Moreno

The survey team, including Jessica Fort, Clayton Neilsen and Andrew Carver from Southern Illinois University with Moreno and Ninon Meyer from Fundación Yaguará Panama and the Sociedad Panameña de Biología, surveyed 85 residents of 23 rural communities around Cerro Hoya National Park and 54 residents of five communities around Darién National Park. They interviewed one adult over 18 years of age per household, focusing on residents such as landowners and cattle ranchers, who were most likely to be affected by jaguars.

Retaliation for livestock predation is the primary cause of jaguar deaths: 96 percent of the estimated 230 jaguar killings between 1989 and 2014 were attributed to this cause.

Road building is another well-known cause of environmental degradation. Earlier this year, STRI research associate William Laurance published a paper in Science, stressing the importance of considering wildlife conservation during transportation infrastructure planning, because it is well known in the conservation community that roads "can unleash a Pandora's box of environmental ills, such as land encroachment, wildlife poaching, forest fragmentation, exotic species invasions and illegal mining."

At the beginning of the survey, respondents were asked to identify jaguars, pumas and ocelots from photographs. Only respondents who could distinguish between these species were included in the analysis. In both study areas, the majority of respondents were male. Researchers asked 32 questions to assess their socioeconomic status, personal experience with jaguars, perceptions and attitudes about jaguars and perceptions of the park and its management.

A higher number of respondents in Darién had personally seen a jaguar in their lifetime. Communities in Darién report more livestock losses: Six respondents in Darién reported 33 predation events involving cattle, whereas only one reported a predation event in Cerro Hoya. Nearly a third of respondents at Cerro Hoya admitted to hunting within park boundaries during the previous year, their preferred prey being the collared peccary, Pecari tajacu. No respondents in the Darién National Park group said they had hunted in the park in the previous year, but those who had in the past preferred the spotted paca, Cuniculus paca. Women in the survey were more likely to agree than men that they would be happier without jaguars.

At Cerro Hoya, 71 percent of respondents were worried about the future of the park and 51 percent thought that it was adequately protected. Near Darien National Park, 54 percent of residents were unsure or had no opinion about whether they were worried about the future of the park, but only 35 percent believed that the park was adequately protected. ... tudes.html