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Comparing Cats: A Discussion of Similarities and Differences between Felids

United States Pckts Offline
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( This post was last modified: 02-17-2020, 12:05 AM by Pckts )

(02-16-2020, 10:51 PM)BorneanTiger Wrote:
(02-16-2020, 10:36 PM)Pckts Wrote:
(02-16-2020, 10:20 PM)Rishi Wrote:
(02-16-2020, 09:37 PM)Pckts Wrote:
(02-16-2020, 09:30 PM)Rishi Wrote:
(02-16-2020, 09:19 PM)Pckts Wrote:  ...I wouldn't be surprised if Pantanal Jaguars look more like Otters than Cats in the next couple 100 years.

More like 100,000...

No, i don't think they'll need that much time.
You already see it now, their small ears, large skulls, dense orbital area, webbed toes, long, articulating spines, etc.
They've already begun the transition to a water dominate animal... 

Why? Hadn't they already been there for many thousands years?.. Did said changes appear in them over past century only & weren't noted in Pantanal Jags before that?
I'm not sure how long they've been there for but the pantanal has extreme conditions which is why you see distinguishable differences between them and their neighbors in the amazon.
And with the increase in Caiman over recent years it seems to be expediting that evolutionary process.
Their prey is limited there, especially in the north and I think that is why they've adapted quickly to adjust for their Caiman rich diet.

It's worth mentioning that unlike the lion, leopard and tiger, the jaguar is believed to be a monotypic species, meaning that it has no subspecies, despite the physical and geographical differences between different populations, like the Pantanal and Mexican jaguars: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/...0.CO%3B2-E
The classification of subspecies is a debatable one, which is why modern science seems to be shrinking it.

The differences between mexico and the pantanal are vast, even between the Amazon and the pantanal, there are many factors.
For instance, in the Amazon during the floods, Jaguars have become sloth hunters and spend most of their time in trees while in the pantanal they dont have that option which is why they are the most aquatic big cat.
What little dry land they have gets washed away and changes every season and the prey they hunt are much more aquatic as well. But this has also led to the largest version of them too.
You can use Lions and Tigers too, for instance, Crater Lions are distinct from the Serengeti lions even though they are essentially the same species but the crater being cooler with more rain and better year round grazing for prey seems to contribute to a much more dense mane that covers the shoulders as well as a more robust cat.
Bengals also show extreme variations even within the same subspecies, I really think the only thing that matters in evolution is habitat, climate and prey base.
If we were to designate every cat with slight variations as a sub species than the classifications could be endless.
"Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is."
-Oscar Wilde
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United States BlakeW39 Offline
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(02-16-2020, 09:19 PM)Pckts Wrote:
(02-16-2020, 08:59 PM)BlakeW39 Wrote:
(02-16-2020, 09:44 AM)Rishi Wrote:
(02-16-2020, 06:33 AM)BlakeW39 Wrote: I wanted your imput on certain evolutionarily morphological ideas, i.e. why tigers and lions convergently evolved and how/why they differ physically from an adaptive POV & how jaguars diverged from other cats in their physicality and why.

The usual "originating on separate far-off corners of the world" central America, sub-saharan Africa & fareast Asia seem very reasonable explanation. Ancestors of jaguars were split much earlier & stranded away on a whole new continent when Bering Land Bridge  got submerged.

Their similarities of physique with tigers are likely result of convergent evolution under comparable niche & habitat.


Thanks for your response! I don't want to mess up anyone's thread, so if I shouldn't speak on this here just let me know.

I actually wasn't so much curious as to how they evolved from a genetic POV (i.e. lion/jaguar lineage splits from tigers, then lions and jaguars split and go opposite directions); moreso in why they evolved adaptively for their physical structure.

So like why tigers and lions got to be the same size, and moreover what differences are between them (build? muscularity? etc) and what pressures drove the similarities and differences or how/why jaguars evolved their abnormally large skulls, short limbs, and squat frames, and why the needlessly strong jaws.

Sorry if I'm inconvenient: I just thought this was a really interesting topic but didn't know where to get you guys' take. Thanks :)

Prey, Climate and terrain.
For example, I wouldn't be surprised if Pantanal Jaguars look more like Otters than Cats in the next couple 100 years.
They've already begun to have webbed toes and long, curved spines.


Good answer, I think the same, on your first statement at least.

I think jaguars evolved to have the most generalized diet of big cats. This is because the tropical rainforest they've adapted for uniquely biodiverse but yet lacks the large herbivores found elsewhere. This may have been exacerbated by the Quarternary extinctions that marked the end of large xenarthrans and notoungulates.

So in response to this, jaguars adapted to take advantage of a very diverse, and usually smaller, prey base. Because of this, different physical adaptations were required. This smaller prey often consisted of armored reptiles. They likely evolved disproportionaly large heads & powerful jaws take advantage of reptiles as well as kill moderately sized mammals in an efficient way that may not have worked for larger animals (skull bite). Indeed, even when available, jaguars seem not to prefer large mammals like tapirs. Their short limbs were maybe a response to their habitat and prey base as well, whereby they didn't need to be as cursorial and with short limbs could stalk their prey more effectively.

I don't think they'll look like otters soon though haha. That specialization wouldn't be advantageous in their habitat, especially when competition is not that high.
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United States Pckts Offline
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Competition in the pantanal is 2nd to none, but for the most part I agree with you.
But when you see Jaguars, you realize how similar their body is to a giant river Otter. 
Obviously they're still very different but, they still share similarities that no other big cat shares.
This has got to do with the fact that they're hunting animals that are more adept in the water than land.
I'm not saying that they'll stop running on land, I'm just comparing their features to that of a specialized aquatic predator.

In regards to large mammals, they dont occur nearly as often in north, whether due to human hunting or Jaguar densisty is up for debate but regardless, they just dont exist like that in the North. The main animals you see there are capybara and Caiman. 
They're both very adept swimmers and never stray far from the waters edge. They also usually sit with one another so they probably require the same tactics. 

Tapir are no slouch, they can be double the size of a male jaguar.
But they are predated on more often in the areas they are more abdundent.
Put it this way, if you go on safari in the northern pantanal, the odds of you seeing a tapir are 1/100.
"Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is."
-Oscar Wilde
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United States BlakeW39 Offline
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(02-17-2020, 03:31 AM)Pckts Wrote: Competition in the pantanal is 2nd to none, but for the most part I agree with you.
But when you see Jaguars, you realize how similar their body is to a giant river Otter. 
Obviously they're still very different but, they still share similarities that no other big cat shares.
This has got to do with the fact that they're hunting animals that are more adept in the water than land.
I'm not saying that they'll stop running on land, I'm just comparing their features to that of a specialized aquatic predator.

In regards to large mammals, they dont occur nearly as often in north, whether due to human hunting or Jaguar densisty is up for debate but regardless, they just dont exist like that in the North. The main animals you see there are capybara and Caiman. 
They're both very adept swimmers and never stray far from the waters edge. They also usually sit with one another so they probably require the same tactics. 

Tapir are no slouch, they can be double the size of a male jaguar.
But they are predated on more often in the areas they are more abdundent.
Put it this way, if you go on safari in the northern pantanal, the odds of you seeing a tapir are 1/100.

Well competition in the Pantanal is high (not sure if I'd say second to none though) with pumas, caimans, and anacondas. I was mostly speaking of terrestrial predators, though.

But yeah I definitely see their similarities with river otters. I think these characteristics are derived from different naturally selective pressures, though; the jaguar's long, flexible spine, for instance, is an adaptation for a different behavior than is the similarly long and flexible spine of the otter. The former is for great agility & athleticism for predation, while the latter is for swimming.

I totally agree that jaguars are the most aquatic of the big cats, mostly due to the fact which I stated on them taking advantage of a diverse prey base that largely includes semi-aquatic animals. But jaguars are generalists, and I doubt they'd specialize in this aquatic prey when they also take other animals, like giant anteaters.

Yeah tapirs aren't slouches, though they should be well within the capabilities of a jaguar sized felid. It's also worth noting that they're also rather aquati, and they're largely nocturnal. They also live at low densities being large solitary animals with rather slow maturation and gestation periods. But nevertheless mammalian megafauna don't make up a significant portion of the jaguars diet in way it usually does for the other extant big cats.
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(02-17-2020, 07:56 PM)BlakeW39 Wrote:
(02-17-2020, 03:31 AM)Pckts Wrote: Competition in the pantanal is 2nd to none, but for the most part I agree with you.
But when you see Jaguars, you realize how similar their body is to a giant river Otter. 
Obviously they're still very different but, they still share similarities that no other big cat shares.
This has got to do with the fact that they're hunting animals that are more adept in the water than land.
I'm not saying that they'll stop running on land, I'm just comparing their features to that of a specialized aquatic predator.

In regards to large mammals, they dont occur nearly as often in north, whether due to human hunting or Jaguar densisty is up for debate but regardless, they just dont exist like that in the North. The main animals you see there are capybara and Caiman. 
They're both very adept swimmers and never stray far from the waters edge. They also usually sit with one another so they probably require the same tactics. 

Tapir are no slouch, they can be double the size of a male jaguar.
But they are predated on more often in the areas they are more abdundent.
Put it this way, if you go on safari in the northern pantanal, the odds of you seeing a tapir are 1/100.

Well competition in the Pantanal is high (not sure if I'd say second to none though) with pumas, caimans, and anacondas. I was mostly speaking of terrestrial predators, though.

But yeah I definitely see their similarities with river otters. I think these characteristics are derived from different naturally selective pressures, though; the jaguar's long, flexible spine, for instance, is an adaptation for a different behavior than is the similarly long and flexible spine of the otter. The former is for great agility & athleticism for predation, while the latter is for swimming.

I totally agree that jaguars are the most aquatic of the big cats, mostly due to the fact which I stated on them taking advantage of a diverse prey base that largely includes semi-aquatic animals. But jaguars are generalists, and I doubt they'd specialize in this aquatic prey when they also take other animals, like giant anteaters.

Yeah tapirs aren't slouches, though they should be well within the capabilities of a jaguar sized felid. It's also worth noting that they're also rather aquati, and they're largely nocturnal. They also live at low densities being large solitary animals with rather slow maturation and gestation periods. But nevertheless mammalian megafauna don't make up a significant portion of the jaguars diet in way it usually does for the other extant big cats.
In regards to competition, I'm speaking on intraspecific ones. In that regards, I'd say the jaguar has the highest densisty of cats in a localized area.
And I'm not talking about females and cubs, I'm talking about adult specimens and mostly males.
In the meeting of the 3 rivers *tourism zone of the northern pantanal* there were 65 identified adult individuals last season. Cubs there are rarely seen and usually are pushed out to never be seen again. 

Tapir are rarely seen in the north, in the south they are seen more often but still rare.
My theory is the reason tapir and green anaconda are rarely seen in the north is because of the densisty of Jaguars. Both are slowing moving animals that may prefer a more vast space with a lower density of Jaguars.
It's kind if a perfect storm in the north, caiman were hunted and killed by the millions, decreasing jaguar numbers and increasing piranha numbers, when protection was finally offered to Caiman, they rebounded fast due to the increase in piranha after missing their main predator.
Now Caiman are everywhere, same with Capybara and both are mostly aquatic animals.
Cattle is a large ungulate and obviously easily killed by Jaguar. Tapir are going to be a tough animal to kill for any cat, especially one that they are double the size of.
Boar that are equal size as cats can be extremely tough prey, when they're double the size of a cat they are going to be very dangerous prey.

Lastly, in regards to their spine, it definitely contributes to Jaguars agility in the water.
They are so comfortable in the water and make kills in the water as well then they need to swim animals from the water up a steep, slippery slope and through dense floating grass.
It's a perfect combination of flexibility and strength, but with the ever changing habitat and aquatic prey preference, it should only benefit the Jaguar to continue its aquatic evolution imo.
"Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is."
-Oscar Wilde
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(02-16-2020, 11:59 PM)Pckts Wrote: The classification of subspecies is a debatable one, which is why modern science seems to be shrinking it.

The differences between mexico and the pantanal are vast, even between the Amazon and the pantanal, there are many factors.
For instance, in the Amazon during the floods, Jaguars have become sloth hunters and spend most of their time in trees while in the pantanal they dont have that option which is why they are the most aquatic big cat.
What little dry land they have gets washed away and changes every season and the prey they hunt are much more aquatic as well. But this has also led to the largest version of them too.
You can use Lions and Tigers too, for instance, Crater Lions are distinct from the Serengeti lions even though they are essentially the same species but the crater being cooler with more rain and better year round grazing for prey seems to contribute to a much more dense mane that covers the shoulders as well as a more robust cat.
Bengals also show extreme variations even within the same subspecies, I really think the only thing that matters in evolution is habitat, climate and prey base.
If we were to designate every cat with slight variations as a sub species than the classifications could be endless.

This is a very good point about the subspecies clasification. The great mayority of the old subspecies of tigers/lions/jaguars/leopards are based in very few specimens, sometimes only "one" soecimen and some cases those were captive specimens! Those clasifications are incorrect and should be avoided completelly.

Genetic and morphological evidence with tigers and lions suggest only two "subspecies" but others defend more. However, what is the evidence that they have? They support the "subspecies" issue with little genetic evidence that can be explained as simple splits caused by human actions in the habitat, or they say that they "look" different with is a very "victorian" point of view and completelly invalid. Even people like Selous said that the lions look very different in a single area that is futile to try to separate them in groups.

@Pckts give an excelent example with the lions in the Crater and those from Serengeti, they look very diferent but they are the same subspecies. Also the Bengal tigers are so different between populations that someone could clasify a lot of subspecies in the subcontinent but all of them are the same (Ranthambore, Kanha, Nagarahole, etc. etc.), in fact only those from Sundarbans shows real adaptative diferences with those of the other areas and are clasified as its own evolutionary conservation unit; other example are Caspian and Amur tigers, with even less differences than those of Sundarbans/India-Nepal and with a separation of only 200 years!

The point is that animals adapt to they habitat but those adaptations are clinal or based in prey availability and type of terrain, but that doesn't means necesarily that they are going to be a different "subspecies". Even worst, the concept of "subspecies" is still not well defined and the one used with tigers, at least is the one of Dr Kitchener which demands that there should be at least a difference in the 75% between populations and that is something that can be done only with the Mainland and the Sunda tigers. Now, about the adaptations, the Amur/Caspian and the Sundarbans tigers have adapted completelly to they own habitat that they are clasified as a different population that should not be merge with the other ones, but there is no significant diference between Indian-Indochina-Malaysia populations, just some diferences in size and weight, but not different enough to separate them as "subspecies" per se.

At the end, speaking of tigers, the populations are now so separated that the humans had actually created "artificial subspecies" with tigers from the Indian subcontinent completelly isolated from other areas, tigers in Indochina surviving only in Thailiand and probably Myanmar, Malayan tigers with a fragmented population only at the end of the itmus of Kra and the Amur tigers completelly isolated in the Russian far east, so none of those populations have the small change to mix in modern days. The key is in the zoos, where these groups are allready separated and should be keep in that form.

As far I know, and also based in the posts of @"Bornean Tiger", the separations of lions is the same thing, lions from the East and South of Africa are diferent from those from West/North Africa and Asia. Only those from the central region of Ethiopia looks like a mix of the two populations, but we don't have data from wild animals, just captive ones from Addis Ababa Zoo.

About jaguars, like @Pckts says, there are huge differences in habitat and prey and that reflect they differecens in size too, but at the end they are just a single subspecies with adaptations to they habitat. It is incredible that in just a few hundred of years these cats had addapted so well and reflect differences in they morphology and is also incredible until what degree the humans had influenced in the natural world.
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United States BlakeW39 Offline
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(02-17-2020, 08:37 PM)Pckts Wrote:
(02-17-2020, 07:56 PM)BlakeW39 Wrote:
(02-17-2020, 03:31 AM)Pckts Wrote: Competition in the pantanal is 2nd to none, but for the most part I agree with you.
But when you see Jaguars, you realize how similar their body is to a giant river Otter. 
Obviously they're still very different but, they still share similarities that no other big cat shares.
This has got to do with the fact that they're hunting animals that are more adept in the water than land.
I'm not saying that they'll stop running on land, I'm just comparing their features to that of a specialized aquatic predator.

In regards to large mammals, they dont occur nearly as often in north, whether due to human hunting or Jaguar densisty is up for debate but regardless, they just dont exist like that in the North. The main animals you see there are capybara and Caiman. 
They're both very adept swimmers and never stray far from the waters edge. They also usually sit with one another so they probably require the same tactics. 

Tapir are no slouch, they can be double the size of a male jaguar.
But they are predated on more often in the areas they are more abdundent.
Put it this way, if you go on safari in the northern pantanal, the odds of you seeing a tapir are 1/100.

Well competition in the Pantanal is high (not sure if I'd say second to none though) with pumas, caimans, and anacondas. I was mostly speaking of terrestrial predators, though.

But yeah I definitely see their similarities with river otters. I think these characteristics are derived from different naturally selective pressures, though; the jaguar's long, flexible spine, for instance, is an adaptation for a different behavior than is the similarly long and flexible spine of the otter. The former is for great agility & athleticism for predation, while the latter is for swimming.

I totally agree that jaguars are the most aquatic of the big cats, mostly due to the fact which I stated on them taking advantage of a diverse prey base that largely includes semi-aquatic animals. But jaguars are generalists, and I doubt they'd specialize in this aquatic prey when they also take other animals, like giant anteaters.

Yeah tapirs aren't slouches, though they should be well within the capabilities of a jaguar sized felid. It's also worth noting that they're also rather aquati, and they're largely nocturnal. They also live at low densities being large solitary animals with rather slow maturation and gestation periods. But nevertheless mammalian megafauna don't make up a significant portion of the jaguars diet in way it usually does for the other extant big cats.
In regards to competition, I'm speaking on intraspecific ones. In that regards, I'd say the jaguar has the highest densisty of cats in a localized area.
And I'm not talking about females and cubs, I'm talking about adult specimens and mostly males.
In the meeting of the 3 rivers *tourism zone of the northern pantanal* there were 65 identified adult individuals last season. Cubs there are rarely seen and usually are pushed out to never be seen again. 

Tapir are rarely seen in the north, in the south they are seen much more often. 
My theory is the reason tapir and green anaconda are rarely seen in the north is because of the densisty of Jaguars. Both are slowing moving animals that may prefer a more vast space with a lower density of Jaguars.
It's kind if a perfect storm in the north, caiman were hunted and killed by the millions, decreasing jaguar numbers and increasing piranha numbers, when protection was finally offered to Caiman, they rebounded fast due to the increase in piranha after missing their main predator.
Now Caiman are everywhere, same with Capybara and both are mostly aquatic animals.
Cattle is a large ungulate and obviously easily killed by Jaguar. Tapir are going to be a tough animal to kill for any cat, especially one that they are double the size of.
Boar that are equal size as cats can be extremely tough prey, when they're double the size of a cat they are going to be very dangerous prey.

Lastly, in regards to their spine, it definitely contributes to Jaguars agility in the water.
They are so comfortable in the water and make kills in the water as well then they need to swim animals from the water up a steep, slippery slope and through dense floating grass.
It's a perfect combination of flexibility and strength, but with the ever changing habitat and aquatic prey preference, it should only benefit the Jaguar to continue its aquatic evolution imo.


Ah okay haha. I was speaking of interspecific competition, which is a very different naturally selective pressure from the intraspecific competition that you spoke of, as the former drives speciation.

When interspecific competition is high, niche partioning occurs, i.e. specialization. When it is low, animals can take advantage of all available resources, and be generalistic. So my point was that since jaguars' competition isn't unusually high, there isn't any competitive drive for them to specialize.

I think we can both easily observe that jaguars are the most generalistic of the big cats in terms of diet. Mammalian megafauna, ungulata particularly, make up a very small part of the jaguar's diet compared to all other big cats. This is because there is less abundance of large mammals in the rainforest which the jaguar inhabits, especially ungulata. Tapir are very strong and robust animals as you said, although I would say that if jaguars preferred them they could indeed hunt them more often than they do, as evidenced by tigers/lions taking on prey at least similarly large in relation to their mass. So the jaguar could not specialize in this prey, and instead had to generalize his diet with other species, including capybara, giant anteater, and a number of reptiles (i.e. caimans).

There isn't a specific pressure that would cause jaguars to specialize, because specialization does have cost, while it will make a predator more adept at hunting specific prey, it narrows the prey base and disallows the predator to take advantage of other prey.

So, there isn't any reason in my opinion to suggest that jaguars might begin to specialize in hunting semi-aquatic or aquatic species. Yes, in the Pantanal they hunt capybara and caiman very prevalently, i.e. the most abundant species; this is a product of their generalist, highly adaptable diet, and not evidence of specialization. They are well adapted to hunt semi-aquatic animals (moreso than other big cats), but they are also well-adapted to hunting terrestrial species.

As far as the morphology/spine is concerned: I agree that the jaguar's defining characteristics -- short but powerful limbs, long flexible spine, and large paws -- make him a good swimmer, I also will state that swimming is a secondary use for these characteristics and isn't the behavior from which they are derived. For one, all cats share these traits, albeit jaguars seem to be most extreme in at least the former (short limbs). The long, flexible spine in particular is an adaptation for rapid maneuverability and agility for the 'explosive power' felids specialize in for predation. Secondly, there doesn't seem to be any difference in morphology between jaguar subspecies that would suggest wetland jaguars were very specialized, something you would expect given how long they've inhabited the area.

All said though, a very interesting conversation!
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It's not that Jaguars dont prefer Tapir it's that they dont have a chance to hunt them in the north, caiman and capybara are everywhere, they are by far the most hunted prey a long with cattle during the wet season.
Tapir, anteaters, green anaconda, etc. Have higher numbers in the south, amazon and cerrado, in those areas you see more predation on said animals, except green anaconda which are much harder to see and less abundant in Jaguar land.
In north you will almost never see any of those animals I just named so documented hunts on them will be even less likely. But obviously they've learned to prefer capybara and Caiman since they're everywhere so it will only behoove the Jaguars to continue their aquatic transition.

Now in regards to morphological differences, we really cannot make that claim since to my knowledge there has been no study for it and the data is limited.
What we can say is that in the Pantanal the Jaguars are longer, heavier and have much larger skulls while the shoulder height doesn't really change.
The only two places this occurs are where there are an abundance of Caiman. The spines of Jaguars are very different from all other cats, they are more curved and arch almost towards the middle which is a similar trait to an Otter. 
When a cat grows a longer spine with a large curve without increasing shoulder height, that isn't a benefit for land but more so for the aquatic lifestyle. Like Otters who share the same traits, it helps them maneuver their bodies in water.
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@BlakeW39, everything you mentioned about jaguars from adapting to surroundings, developing a wide range of diet, to becoming more aquatic are all applicable to tigers of marshy ecosystems (unfortunately only Sunderbans is a marshy ecosystem home to tigers at present times but this was not the case only 150 years ago as Mangrove and marshy ecosystems all across SouthEast Asia had tiger presence covering over 150,000 sq.km)

So, when you say “I think jaguars evolved to have the most generalized diet of big cats. This is because the tropical rainforest they've adapted for uniquely biodiverse but yet lacks the large herbivores found elsewhere” 
That is exactly the case for Sunderban tiger. A tiger in Sunderbans can eat anything from a boar to a monitor lizard. They even eat bee larvae! alongside snakes like cobras and even rarely king cobras. 20% of their diet is made up of turtles, crab and fish. What a lot of people don’t know is till a 100 years ago, their biggest prey was the Javan Rhino. Their varied diet and lack of big game has pushed their average weight down (opposite of jaguars).

The tigers in Sunderbans were radio collared and it was found out that they swam 29 kilometres in a day shuttling from island to island. So, the claim of jaguars being most aquatic is also debatable one. Let us not forget tigers have evolved webbed toes like ducks to displace a large amount of water when swimming using their enormous paws.

What I am trying to say is big cats are an evolutionary success story and their adaptability is absolutely fascinating but not any one species is that different from another in evolving to their surroundings. The one thing I am miffed about is how humans and their activities robbed us of so many more potential opportunities to study this whole extraordinary family. 
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(Yesterday, 11:08 PM)Ashutosh Wrote: @BlakeW39, everything you mentioned about jaguars from adapting to surroundings, developing a wide range of diet, to becoming more aquatic are all applicable to tigers of marshy ecosystems (unfortunately only Sunderbans is a marshy ecosystem home to tigers at present times but this was not the case only 150 years ago as Mangrove and marshy ecosystems all across SouthEast Asia had tiger presence covering over 150,000 sq.km)

So, when you say “I think jaguars evolved to have the most generalized diet of big cats. This is because the tropical rainforest they've adapted for uniquely biodiverse but yet lacks the large herbivores found elsewhere” 
That is exactly the case for Sunderban tiger. A tiger in Sunderbans can eat anything from a boar to a monitor lizard. They even eat bee larvae! alongside snakes like cobras and even rarely king cobras. 20% of their diet is made up of turtles, crab and fish. What a lot of people don’t know is till a 100 years ago, their biggest prey was the Javan Rhino. Their varied diet and lack of big game has pushed their average weight down (opposite of jaguars).

The tigers in Sunderbans were radio collared and it was found out that they swam 29 kilometres in a day shuttling from island to island. So, the claim of jaguars being most aquatic is also debatable one. Let us not forget tigers have evolved webbed toes like ducks to displace a large amount of water when swimming using their enormous paws.

What I am trying to say is big cats are an evolutionary success story and their adaptability is absolutely fascinating but not any one species is that different from another in evolving to their surroundings. The one thing I am miffed about is how humans and their activities robbed us of so many more potential opportunities to study this whole extraordinary family. 

I've never been to the Sunderbans so I cannot say which is more aquatic, Sunderban Tigers certainly live in an aquatic dominate landscape but the prey they hunt doesn't seem to be as comfortable in the water as Jaguars which IMO tends to make Jaguars even more accustomed to the water, but that is a theory based off of my personal observations.
But both have developed traits to benefit their aquatic lifestyle and given enough time they should continue their evolutionary journey to becoming more water dominate creatures.
"Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is."
-Oscar Wilde
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India Ashutosh Offline
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( This post was last modified: Yesterday, 11:35 PM by Ashutosh )

True, @Pckts. But, Jaguars are the absolute apex predator in their landscape. On the other hand, tigers in Sunderbans have to deal with saltwater crocodiles and highly venomous sea snakes and both of those are better in water than the tiger, and no other animal is worrying the jaguar on such levels. Patrolling a territory is so much harder with such dangers lurking around. So, should the criteria for a more aquatic cat be based only on the prey? Personally, I think the fishing cat is the most aquatic cat around, but there is so little known about them.
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United States Pckts Offline
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(Yesterday, 11:29 PM)Ashutosh Wrote: True, @Pckts. But, Jaguars are the absolute apex predator in their landscape. On the other hand, tigers in Sunderbans have to deal with saltwater crocodiles and highly venomous sea snakes and both of those are better in water than the tiger, and no other animal is worrying the jaguar on such levels. Patrolling a territory is so much harder with such dangers lurking around. So, should the criteria for a more aquatic cat be based only on the prey? Personally, I think the fishing cat is the most aquatic cat around, but there is so little known about them.

Valid point, I'm sure a Jaguar would be much less at home in the waters of the Pantanal if 15' Crocs were lurking. 
But in terms of any other cat being more or less aquatic, I'm not sure since I haven't seen them. 
But in the Northern Pantanal there is hardly any dry land and the sand bars will come and go with the seasons.
In fact when you see tall grass in which you think has dry land beneath it, there really is just water and that tall grass will rock with the wakes that the boat creates as you drive past.
It's truly amazing how much water actually dominates the Pantanal, it's unlike any place I've seen personally.
"Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is."
-Oscar Wilde
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United States BlakeW39 Offline
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( This post was last modified: Today, 06:31 AM by BlakeW39 )

@Ashutosh first of all, thanks for showing me that there's a much more efficient way of replying to someone haha.

That's definitely a very interesting point. Big cats are indeed an evolutionary success story, seeing as hoe they outcompeted most other carnivores as apex predator, likely pushing many taxa to extinction. Sundarban tigers are, likewise, a good example of big cats' adaptability. 

But, nevertheless, I'm not so sure Sundarban tigers and jaguars are a great comparison. This is because Sundarban tigers, while insularly isolated, are only a subpopulation of tiger, and thus aren't derived enough to have developed the morphological divergence that jaguars have. Tigers, though adaptable (as are all large predators), specialize in hunting terrestrial megafauna which is something you can see in their diet across their range. Sundarban tigers are still tigers and are adapted to this purpose, but very recently have been deprived of large prey, and so had to adapt to other prey. You've already seen them converge in with jaguars by becoming smaller and feeding often on aquatic and semi-aquatic species, as well as reptiles. But they haven't the time to change their physiology significantly.

So in my opinion my theory on how jaguars became the most generalistic big cat still stands. Of course that's what's great about the conversation, we can't know for sure and we all have our separate ideas :) but jaguars show very definitively divergent morphology. They have a disproportionately large head, massive jaws, and short limbs. I see the reason for this being a need to generalize their predation based on a lack of large prey and need to prey on smaller but often very compact creatures, and often on armored reptiles, by ambushing them in dense habitat and kill them efficiently. Because cats are adaptable but they are also quite diverse and I see clear differences between jaguars and tigers. As for who is more aquatic, that's debatable but I'd say jaguars are at least more well adapted for aquaric life and more frequently rely on these habitats. But it's totally up for debate, both cats do well in wetland.

@Pckts well, the studies I have reviewed all seem to indicate that where jaguars overlap with tapirs, that tapirs aren't preferred prey. Similarly, jaguars do indeed overlap with ungulata but where they do, these prey are also not preferred. Likewise, I've also seen it put that jaguars prey preference seems to have the least consideration for the morphology of prey, and take the smallest prey relative to thwir body mass of large felids. Jaguars, then, can be inferred to be the most generalist big cats.

We are in agreement that jaguars are well adapted for water. Moreso than the other large felids. Pantanal jaguars do seem to be the most aquatic of jaguars. But these differences are slight variations of characteristics they already have, and while it is possible they continue to grow more aquatic, I personally think it's implausible. Jaguars' adaptability is much of their success and their adaptation to the Pantanal is a product of this great adaptability and generalized diet. I don't see them becoming any more water-adapted but that's not something that's predictable, so I guess we will see in 100 years haha. As for their skull, spine, stocky build; I don't see the former or the latter as adaptation for swimming in any matter, but a flexible spine is helpful for this purpose I agree. However I find it unlikely this was the sole reason for their curved spine as it can be justified for other reasons, even as a product of their stocky build and short limbs.
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United States Pckts Offline
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( This post was last modified: Today, 08:04 AM by Pckts )

@BlakeW39
There's an older study on Jaguars prey preference from the Southern Pantanal.
In this study its shown that Jaguars 1st preferred prey was cattle, then caiman and peccary.
This was dependent on the time of year and individual cat as certain individuals preferred cattle over another.
Cattle between calf and adult were both taken, showing that Jaguars take animals larger than Tapir often.
It's also shown that while both Collared and White lipped peccary were present, Jaguars preferred the white lip peccary which is a larger species.
Tapir were also taken but only by male Jaguars.
But there are a few factors that differentiate the South from the North.
In the South, floods are worse and cattle are preyed upon more often. The Tourism there is also more rugged and the lands more molested. Farmers will bait their properties with cattle to attract Jaguars and the tourists dollars that follow them.
Caiman is also less dense there, capybara as well. But in that study they found that when the water dispersed and the Caiman spread out across the landscape, Jaguars preferred Caiman to Cattle.
But in the North, Cattle isn't a preferred prey due to the abundance of Caiman and Capybara.

Now who's to say that Tapir wouldn't be preyed upon more often if Cattle weren't so available. Cattle directly compete with Tapir for habitat and essentially replace that prey item for Jaguar with even less natural caution towards Jaguars. If Tapir existed in the numbers that animals like Caiman, Capybara and Peccary do then I'm sure they would be as common a prey item as all the rest.

Here is a beautiful display of how profecient they are while hunting in the water. For me, this is a good example of where a Jaguars evolution may be heading. They'll still need limbs to drag prey to shore when available but they need to be maneuverable in water to capture prey. It seems to be equally as important to sneak up from behind the waters edge as it does to sneak in to shore from the water itself.
"Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is."
-Oscar Wilde
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Finland Shadow Offline
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( This post was last modified: 1 hour ago by Shadow )

@Pckts  @BlakeW39  @Rishi  @Ashutosh  @GuateGojira   I moved this latest discussion here since it has very little to do with thread concerning modern weights of wild tigers.
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