Until recently, there were nine recognized subspecies of jaguar, but modern scientific and DNA study reveals that there is just one species that varies substantially in size and color owing to environmental changes across its range.
The jaguar was widely regarded as being divided into two distinct types: the oncilla, which is small with a grayish-brown coat and lives in southern Mexico and parts of Central America; and the true jaguar, which is larger with a yellowish-black coat and lives in northern South America.
However, genetic analysis has shown that these are actually two varieties of one species. The oncilla consists of three genetically isolated populations that may represent full species themselves: the first population was named the pampas cat after the name given to certain large cats living in South America; the second population was named the Brazilian jaguar after the Amazon River region where it is found; and the third population was named the Colombian jaguar after Colombia, where it is found near the border with Ecuador. The Brazilian jaguar is now considered to be an independent species by some scientists because it is genetically different from the other two populations.
Black jaguars are not a different species, but rather an uncommon color variety that owes their dark pigmentation (and yellow irises) to a disease known as melanism. The coat may appear entirely black, although patches are frequently evident if you examine closely (which we do not recommend). Although rare, individuals with significant pigmentation loss have been reported.
Yes, black jaguars do exist. They are found in the wild in Brazil, Colombia, and far northern Mexico. There are also three captive black jaguars in North America. Two of them were born in captivity and the other one was captured as a juvenile and released when it grew up.
There are no official numbers for black jaguars, but biologists estimate that there may be between 25 and 50 animals left in the wild. One reason for this low number is that they are often killed by farmers who see them as pests because these cats eat corn and other crops. Also, some people say black jaguars are dangerous and should not be kept as pets, which may explain why there are only three ones in captivity.
You should know that black jaguars are protected under Brazilian law. No one can capture or kill them without a license.
The Pantanal jaguar (P. o. palustris) is the biggest subspecies of jaguar, native to the Pantanal districts of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil, as well as along the Paraguay River in Paraguay and northern Argentina, and weighs more than 135 kg (298 lb) as an adult. Although smaller individuals have been reported, these appear to be young Pantanal jaguars that have not yet reached their full size.
The Amazonian jaguar (P. onca amazonica) is the second-largest subspecies of jaguar, after the Pantanal species. It too is found in the Brazilian Pantanal and adjacent parts of Mato Grosso and Pará states. It usually weighs between 55 and 80 kg (121-176 lb), but larger individuals have been reported from Colombia and Venezuela.
The Gulf Coast jaguar (P. g. nigrinus) is the third-largest subspecies of jaguar, after the Pantanal species and the Amazonian jaguar. It is found in coastal areas of southern Texas and Florida from Mexico to South Carolina. Usually weighing between 35 and 50 kg (77-110 lb), one large male was recorded at 95 kg (210 lb).
The Jaguar, one of the world's largest cats, is Brazil's national animal. According to a 2015 study, there were about 15,000 jaguars in the wild (Defender of Wildlife). Because of its significance in Brazilian customs, the jaguar has been designated as the country's national animal.
In 1992, during the presidential campaign, Carlos Alberto Montaner noted that if Fernando Collor de Mello was elected, it would be able to make Brazil's first female president - Maria da Penha Gomes. This caused widespread criticism from environmentalists who believed that choosing the national cat over other animals with more conservation efforts deserved. Since then, people have made efforts to promote other species instead. In 2004, scientists created a list of 10 candidates to replace the jaguar. However, because they did not receive enough votes, the jaguar remained on the list of recommended animals for future campaigns.
There are several theories about how the jaguar became Brazil's national animal. Some say it was chosen because it was the favorite animal of Emperor Dom Pedro II. The jaguar's image appears on money, stamps, and various products throughout Brazil. It is also used in advertising and when creating awareness for environmental issues.
Some believe the coati or guinea pig should be replaced by another animal because they have no official status.
The Jaguar is a well-muscled and small animal. Rainforest jaguars are often darker and smaller than those seen in open regions, presumably because there are less big herbivorous prey in the forest. They weigh about 100 pounds (45 kg), stand about 1.5 feet (0.5 m) at the shoulder and have a tail nearly as long.
Rainforest Jaguars live in tropical climates with high humidity and abundant rainfall. Their habitats must be close enough to the forest and large enough for them to find food and shelter; otherwise they will go looking for these things elsewhere. These cats do not like urban areas and will try to escape them by crossing roads or climbing over fences. Because of this behavior and their preference for living in remote areas, rainforest jaguars are not found in many countries that have been studied thoroughly.
There are three subspecies of jaguar: Northern Jaguar, Southern Jaguar and Mexican Jaguar. All are endangered, but there are more than 500 Northern Jaguars and more than 300 Southern Jaguars. No one knows how many Mexican Jaguars there are because it is difficult to study this cat due to its secretive nature. However, since 2000, the number of Mexican Jaguars has increased by 30 percent! This is good news for an animal that was once considered extinct in the country where it was first discovered.
What exactly is a jaguar? Jaguars are the only big cats in the Americas and the world's third largest after tigers and lions. They resemble leopards, which are found in Africa and Asia, but jaguars' markings are more complicated and frequently contain a dot in the middle. While all members of the cat family are called "cats", not all cats are jaguars. People sometimes confuse jaguars with cougars or leopards, but these animals are found in different parts of the world.
Jaguars were originally found across south-eastern North America, but today they are restricted to the tropical forests of Brazil and north-western Paraguay. There are an estimated 3000 to 7500 jaguars left in the wild. Although deforestation and hunting are taking their toll, there is hope for the species: its population is growing again because more young jaguars are being born than dying out in battle or due to human interference.
People have been telling stories about jaguars for as long as there have been jaguars. The first written account of a jaguar was made by a Spanish explorer in 1553, when he came across jaguars in what is now Colombia. Since then, jaguars have been appearing in literature, art and music. For example, Mexican painter José Guadalupe Posada included pictures of jaguars in his comic book series Los Pájaros (The Birds).