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Jaguar (Panthera onca) feeding ecology: distribution of predator and prey through time and space


Mark Weckel, Fordham University, Bronx, NY 10458, USA.


Jaguars Panthera onca inhabiting tropical or subtropical evergreen moist forest have often been classified as opportunistic predators because they consume prey relative to its availability. However, these studies failed to address simultaneously the distribution of predator and prey through time and space, which may lead to an incomplete or erroneous understanding of jaguar foraging strategies. In this study, we reconstructed jaguar diet from scat, and used camera traps to investigate jaguar prey availability and the distribution of jaguar and its prey through space and time. We focused our examination of predator–prey temporal and spatial relations on forest infrastructure comprising man-made paths, small mammal trails, tapir Tapirus bairdi trail and trail-less, forested areas as they represent distinct habitats for prey selection. Overall, we observed high overlap between the prey used and available, suggestive of opportunistic foraging. However, jaguars exhibited selective tendencies in discriminating between larger prey. Jaguars used collared peccary Tayassu tajacu greater than its availability, while preying upon the equally abundant and similarly distributed white-lipped peccary Tayassu pecari and tapir less than predicted based upon availability. Armadillo Dasypus novemcinctus and paca Agouti paca, 56.6% of total consumption, were consumed relative to availability but exhibited low spatial overlap with jaguar. Armadillo and paca used trail-less, forested areas and small mammal trails not used by jaguar and were photographed more frequently at greater distances from man-made paths, major thoroughfares for jaguars. This study suggests that although forest jaguars use prey relative to its abundance, jaguars may rely on foraging strategies other than chance encounters for exploiting prey.