Jaguar sounds proud and noble! This brave predator is unusually beautiful and graceful, in all movements and habits his royal feline nature is visible. This is not surprising, because where he lives, there is practically no equal in power and strength to the jaguar.
In the territories of both Americas, he is the largest representative of the cat family, and in the whole world he takes the third place of honor. The appearance of the jaguar is so mesmerizing that its magical pattern on the skin can be considered forever, admiring its irresistibility and endurance!
Origin of the species and description
The jaguar is a predator belonging to the genus of panthers and to the subfamily of big cats. He is the only representative of a kind of panther that settled in both North and South America. The appearance of the jaguar is very similar to leopards, but the former is much larger.
In different areas of habitat, this predator is called by different names. For example, Hispanics call it a tiger, although they are very distant relatives. The very word “jaguar” in the language of the Indian people of Quechua means “blood”. It is quite common in various names and in all sorts of phrases. It is assumed that the word represents predators. These Indians compared brave and courageous people with cougars and jaguars. There is an identical sounding word in the language of the Indians of the Guarani tribe, it is translated as “a beast that kills with one jump.”
If we talk about the origin of this feline species, then there are some data based on paleontological methods, they indicate that the last ancestor of this family, who is also a close relative of the clouded leopard, lived in the range from six to ten million years ago.
Palaeontologists suggest that the origin of the species itself occurred about 3.8 million years ago.
Opinions on the account of the closest relatives of the jaguar among various scientists do not coincide; DNA studies of the animal are ongoing to this day. Still, important morphological features indicate that the leopard is the closest relative to the jaguar. Found remains of the extinct Barbary lion and the European jaguar, which belonged to the genus Panthers, indicate that these animals had the features of both a lion and a jaguar.
Another molecular analysis made by scientists revealed that the modern species of jaguars appeared much later than the excavation data indicate, this happened from 510 to 280 thousand years ago. There is still a lot of mystery and incomprehensibility in the origin of the modern jaguar, which lives today, so research by scientists does not stop even today.
Appearance and features
The appearance of the jaguar, in truth, is irresistible. His stature, grace and beautiful fur coat can be simply envied. This is the only panther cat that inhabits America, its size and appearance are quite impressive. At the withers, the jaguar can reach a height of 80 cm. Its muscular body can be from 120 to 180 cm long, not counting the tail, which sometimes has a length of up to 90 cm. The mass of jaguars varies from 68 to 136 kg.
Females are much smaller than males. An interesting case is known that a real heavyweight was recorded in this feline kingdom – a jaguar, weighing as much as 158 kg! It has been observed that predators living in open areas have larger dimensions compared to those that live in wooded areas. Most likely, this is influenced by the abundance of food, which is much more abundant in the steppe zones, because entire herds of ungulates graze there.
The head of the jaguar is large and strong with powerful square jaws. The body of the jaguar is slender and lean. Ears – medium-sized, rounded. The eyes are truly feline, predatory, the look is strong-willed and slightly arrogant. The limbs of the beast are strong and squat, the muscles on them are well developed, their grip and power are immediately noticeable. Jaguar runners are also excellent, these predators can reach speeds of up to 100 km per hour, and they pounce so quickly and swiftly that the victim does not even have time to wake up.
The magnificent skin of the jaguar is a delight, thanks to its amazing colors. The predator's fur is not long, but very thick and pleasant to the touch.
The general background shade of the body can be:
The entire body is covered everywhere with dark spots, which in different individuals can be smaller and larger, have a solid or rosette color. In some instances, the pattern is presented in the form of rings. The entire muzzle of the jaguar is strewn with small dark specks that stand out clearly against the general lighter background. The ears of the animal are dark in color with a light spot in the middle. From below, the body of the jaguar is light gray, almost white.
It is interesting that jaguars are also black, they are not so rare, this is due to the presence of the panther gene in the predator. Such specimens are called melanists. They have spots on their fur coats, but they are not visible at all against the general coal background. More often, such cubs are born in individuals inhabiting forest areas. There was an amazing case in the Odessa Zoo when a family of jaguars in the brood had a pair of cubs of the usual color, and a pair were completely black. These are the metamorphoses of nature!
Where does the jaguar live?
The jaguar is a resident of Central and South America. In the north, the border of its habitat extends along the steppes of Mexico and some states of the United States, animals are settled to the north of Paraguay and Argentina, and are found on the coast of Venezuela. The largest specimens were seen in Brazil, and the most numerous populations live in the Amazon River Valley. The habitat of this mustachioed predator has been much reduced, in some countries (Uruguay, El Salvador) it has completely disappeared. The area currently covered by the animals' habitat is approximately nine million square kilometers, which is almost half the size of their historical range.
Jaguars love bushy, dense, impassable places near swamps and other bodies of water, they adore tropical forests, where the climate is quite humid and there is where to hide. They settle near the water, because. reputed to be excellent swimmers, and they prefer wooded areas, tk. they also climb trees beautifully and love solitude. The jaguar avoids strongly arid areas; you can hardly meet it very high in the mountains either. Once a jaguar was seen at an altitude of almost 4 km in Costa Rica, but this case is an exception to the rule, predators do not risk climbing above two and a half kilometers.
For a happy, carefree and dignified life, the jaguar needs to perform three important conditions of existence:
- water element in the place of his permanent residence;
- dense forest for perfect camouflage;
- extensive reserves of prey (ungulates ).
All these three factors together are the most favorable for the successful life and activity of these large and powerful cats.
What does the jaguar eat?
The menu of the jaguar is very rich and varied, although compared to its relatives tigers and lions, the spotted predator does not have a very large choice of ungulates in the diet, all this is due to its habitat. Based on this, jaguars have to expand the range of their gastronomic preferences through other living creatures. Zoologists have calculated that in the diet of a predator there are at least 87 species of animals that he is not averse to eating.
Based on the places of its permanent residence, the jaguar loves to eat capybaras, caimans, tapirs. There is also an animal on the menu of a predator that looks like a wild boar, like bakers. The spotted cat will not refuse from the anteater, deer, fish, waterfowl. Jaguars also hunt all kinds of snakes (even the anaconda), monkeys, iguanas, possums, foxes, various rodents, noses, otters. The list can be continued for a long time, because the jaguar has practically no food competitors in its area, because. it belongs to the highest link in the food chain, hardly anyone dares to argue with this powerful predator because of the prey.
Even armadillos and turtles are on the jaguar menu. He is not embarrassed by their strong shells, because the jaws of the jaguar are much stronger and more powerful, they split their armor like walnuts. Jaguars also love to eat turtle eggs, without a twinge of conscience ruining their nests. Sometimes predators can attack domestic cattle, but they do it infrequently.
The hunting skill of the jaguar can only be envied. Unsurpassed disguise and ambush are his main assistants. The animal can hide both in trees and in dense bushes. Usually the jaguar guards its victims not far from the paths leading animals to a watering place. The attack of a cat hunter is always lightning fast and sudden, usually he attacks from behind or from the side, digging into the victim's neck. Often, in addition to the suffocating maneuver, the jaguar uses the technique of biting through the skull or cervical vertebrae, with this method the predator kills the caimans. The predator tries to knock down large ungulates to the ground with one jump. Often, with such a fall, the victim breaks his neck.
It is interesting that if the victim discovered a jaguar ambush and rushed away, then he would not catch up with her, although the speed could develop decent, the predator would better wait for new prey who will definitely come to get drunk.
The jaguar prefers to start his meal from the head. If large prey is caught, then he can eat it in two stages with a break of 10 hours between meals. Graceful spotted cats love fresh food, so they are not interested in carrion. Even if the jaguar has not eaten its prey, it will not return to it, but will look for fresh prey.
When hunting, the predator makes a grumbling, rumbling, intermittent sound. The Indians believe that the jaguar is able to imitate all kinds of voices of animals and birds, luring them closer to its ambush. And the Brazilians believe that the beast can subject its victims to hypnosis, completely mastering their consciousness. It is not for nothing that this strong animal is awarded special treatment and respect in the culture of various peoples inhabiting South and Central America.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
By nature, jaguars are loners who carefully guard their territory from any encroachment. The land holdings of predators are very extensive, they can occupy an area from 25 to 100 square meters. km. In males, it is much larger and can overlap the possessions of several females at once. It has been observed that male allotments are often triangular in shape, and jaguars change their hunting angle every 2 or 3 days. About every 10 days, the male inspects the boundaries of his territory, making a detour so that none of the other felines (puma, ocelot) encroach on his private property.
The jaguar shows vigor and activity in the twilight hours and before the very dawn, leading at this time a relentless hunt. The Jaguar feels great both on land and in water. If on land hunting he does not like to catch up with his lost prey, then in the water he is ready to do it with pleasure, because he swims just fine. He is also a wonderful tree climber, his most dangerous ambushes are located just in the crown of trees.
In the daytime, predators enjoy rest after an intense hunt. Usually they sleep in shaded cool places, where there is a thick and impassable thicket, they can take a nap in caves, and settle under huge stones. Most often, all these favorite places are located near the water. With the onset of the rainy season, jaguars have to move higher – on the branches of trees.
In the arsenal of the jaguar there are a lot of all kinds of sounds with which he communicates with his fellow tribesmen. Animals immediately distinguish by sounds who makes them (male or female) and for what reason. When hunting, grouchy and guttural sounds are heard; in the mating season, males roar like beluga whales. Females also make peculiar exclamations during estrus, usually doing this late at night or in the wee hours.
If we talk about the interaction of a jaguar and a person, then the first one will never attack people himself if the person does not give such a reason. Typically, encounters occur when the jaguar is on the defensive, fighting for its life. Human meat is not on the menu of the animal, so the jaguar prefers not to mess with bipeds.
Social Structure and Reproduction
There is no specific mating season for jaguars. During estrus, the female indicates readiness for intercourse with the help of specific sounds and marks. Animals become sexually mature at the age of three. Cats also respond to the ladies' call with specific exclamations. It is interesting that there are no fights between cats for the lady of the heart, because. The choice is solely hers. At the time of mating, the female moves to the site of her fiance, then they part and continue their single cat life.
The duration of pregnancy is about a hundred days. When the birth is already close, the expectant mother is engaged in arranging a lair, which can be located in a dense thicket, a secluded large hollow, in a cave. Usually, there are two to four babies in a litter. The pattern on the cubs is not yet as pronounced as on adults. Densely located black spots dominate on the fur coat of babies. At birth, kittens are completely blind and helpless. Only by two weeks they begin to see clearly.
A caring mother does not allow babies to get out of the shelter for a month and a half after birth. The mother treats the babies with milk until the age of six months, then begins to teach them to hunt. Young animals live on the territory of their mother until about two years old, then they become completely independent, equipping their personal space. It is sad to realize that due to the fault of people, many young jaguars do not live up to the age of their puberty. These predators live in the wild usually up to 10 – 12 years, in captivity they can live for a quarter of a century.
Natural enemies of the jaguar
Do not forget that the jaguar is the highest link in the food chain, so it has practically no enemies among predatory animals in its habitat. Sometimes when the jaguar hunts big game (especially caimans), the prey can severely injure it. There were times when a jaguar died during a fight with an anaconda. Jaguars also have skirmishes with cougars for possession of the territory, although the spotted predator is more powerful than the cougar, sometimes the latter can seriously injure him.
No matter how hard it is to realize, the most dangerous enemies of the jaguar are people who are ready for cruel deeds for the sake of possessing a beautiful animal skin.
In addition to skins, people are interested in the fangs and paws of these amazing predators. In addition, many local herders kill jaguars out of fear for their herds of ungulates. Man is increasingly advancing from all sides, absorbing the territory where predators have settled for centuries, so the latter have to retreat, reducing not only their habitat, but also their numbers.
Population and view status
Nowadays, one can observe sad statistics that indicate that the jaguar population is continuously declining. In many places where they used to meet, predators have completely disappeared. It is a pity that even the lord of the jungle himself cannot restrain the destructive human force that many animals suffer from.
Back in 1973, scientists recognized that jaguars were endangered, and then this predator was listed in the International Red Book. People began to conduct propaganda, the purpose of which was the refusal of mankind from fur clothing. Then for some time the demand for jaguar skins fell. Although the hunt has not become as active as before, it still continues, even if illegally. In countries such as Bolivia, Mexico and Brazil, limited hunting is still allowed.
In addition to illegal shooting, jaguars are threatened by another danger – cutting down tropical forests, which leads to the death of many animals that are in the predator's diet. Fewer and fewer cubs are born to females, because it is becoming more and more difficult for their mother to feed them every year.
Over the past few decades, people on the South American continent have been creating large national parks to protect jaguars. An international convention has banned the sale of these animals. Despite all these measures taken, the jaguar population continues to decline, which is very alarming and sad.
Many indigenous peoples of America personify the jaguar with courage, incredible courage, power and nobility. Stone sculptures of this stately animal adorn their altars. Indian chiefs wore jaguar skins as a symbol of power. This amazing predator merged two seemingly incompatible concepts such as great power and unsurpassed beauty. Maybe the jaguar really has the gift of hypnosis, because looking at him, it's just impossible to tear yourself away!