Jaguar

Latin Name
Panthera onca

Class
Mammals

Order
Carnivora

Description

The largest South American cat, male jaguars weigh as much as 260 pounds. Both sexes have broad heads, powerful chests and short, strong legs.


 

Range

This large carnivore can be found throughout South America and Mexico.


Status

Jaguars are endangered due to habitat loss, commercial fur hunting and persecution as a predator. Lincoln Park Zoo cooperatively manages jaguar populations with other institutions in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.


Habitat

These predators inhabit deciduous and tropical rain forest, most often near fresh water.


Niche

Among the most versatile and opportunistic of all cats, jaguars will explore any terrain, hunting a wide range of prey, which they fell with powerful paws. They spend much of their time in trees, often attacking prey from the branches. Jaguars hunt peccaries, capybaras, crocodilians, tapirs, fish, monkeys, sloths, turtles and birds.


Life History

A number of males, which mew during courtship displays, will pursue a single female jaguar. The dominant cat wins the right to breed. Up to four cubs are born per litter, which are hidden in dens beneath tree roots. After about a week, the cubs' eyes open. They suckle until about six months, when they join their mother on hunts. By two years they leave their dam; females are sexually mature by that time while the males mature after one of two more years. Jaguars can reach 20 years of age in the wild.


Special Adaptations
  • A secretive, nocturnal species, jaguars are difficult to study in the wild. Researchers use motion-sensitive cameras to capture images of the big cats as they prowl through the night. These images help scientists in their efforts to conserve jaguars.
  • Jaguars combine power, grace, quick reflexes and endurance when stalking prey. They will follow animals into the water, snatching prey while they swim.
  • Jaguars will ferociously roar and grunt, but they also mew like a housecat.


Lincoln Park Zoo Exhibit