Jaguar

He is a wild animal

Origin
From Mexico to most of Central and South America
Translation
Francis Vandersteen
The possession of this animal is not authorized Royal Decree establishing the list of mammals not kept for production purposes that may be kept (M.B. 24.08.2009)
The Jaguar is a carnivorous mammal of the Felidae family. It is one of the five "big cats" of the Panthera genus, along with the tiger, lion, ounce and leopard. Its current range extends from Mexico to most of Central and South America, as far north as Argentina and Paraguay. Apart from occasional wandering specimens from Mexico, the Jaguar has been extirpated from the USA since the early 1970s.

This spotted feline physically resembles the leopard, but is generally larger and more massive in appearance. Moreover, its habitat and behavior are closer to those of the tiger. Although its preferred habitat is dense tropical rainforest, the Jaguar thrives in a wide variety of open and wooded environments. It is strongly associated with the presence of water and, like the tiger, enjoys swimming. It is a solitary predator that hunts by stalking, while being opportunistic in its selection of prey. It is also a super-predator, playing an important role in stabilizing ecosystems and regulating the populations it hunts. It has developed exceptional biting power, even compared with other big cats, enabling it to pierce reptile shells and employ an unusual killing method: it bites directly into its prey's skull, delivering a fatal blow to the brain.

The Jaguar's coat is generally mottled yellow, but can range from brown to black. The underside, throat and outer surface of the leg and lower flanks are lighter in color, close to white. The animal is covered with camouflage rosettes for the Amazon rainforest, its habitat. Spots vary on the individual and between individuals: rosettes may include one or more dots, and the shape of the dots varies. Spots on the head, neck and tail are generally quite distinct from other, solid spots (without rosettes); on the neck, they join to form stripes.

Melanistic forms exist in the species. The advanced melanistic form affects around six percent of the population, and is therefore less common than the more mottled form reported on South American Jaguars, and is the result of a dominant allele. Jaguars with the advanced melanistic form appear entirely black, but their spots are still visible if you look closely. Jaguars affected by deep melanism are informally known as "Black Jaguars", but do not form a distinct species or subspecies. Individuals affected by albinism, sometimes called "White Jaguars", are rare but do exist in Jaguars, as in other big cats.

Like all felines, the Jaguar is a carnivore. It is an opportunistic hunter, and its diet includes 87 species. The Jaguar prefers large prey and hunts deer, snakes, capybaras, tapirs, peccaries and caimans. However, the feline can eat any small species it can capture, including frogs, fish, eggs, sloths, monkeys and turtles. It can also hunt livestock, which is why it is sometimes killed by farmers. Unlike all other species of the Panthera genus, the Jaguar very rarely attacks humans. The Jaguar is occasionally a scavenger: this behavior has been reported in Brazil, Costa Rica, Honduras and Mexico.

Instead of using the typical Panthera technique of biting deep into the throat to induce suffocation, it prefers a killing method unique among felines: it pierces the temporal bone of the skull with its canines, piercing the brain. This may be an adaptation to turtle shells, which after the end of the Pleistocene extinctions became, along with other shelled reptiles, an abundant source of prey for the Jaguar. This skull-biting technique is used particularly on mammals, especially capybara. With reptiles such as caiman, the Jaguar can leap behind its prey to break its cervical vertebrae, immobilizing the target. Able to crack turtle shells, the Jaguar can gut the flesh. For prey such as dogs, one swipe of the paw to crush the skull may be enough. Its retractable claws are useful for holding prey with the hind legs, while the front ones choke it.

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