by Greg Mayer
Jerry recently posted about a new analysis of cat coat color patterns by William Allen and colleagues from the University of Bristol that is in press in The Proceedings of the Royal Society B, so I thought it might be interesting to take a look at one of the species in the analysis, that I was able to photograph recently: the jaguar, Panthera onca.
It kind of looks like he’s about to spring and make a meal of me, but I didn’t take the picture in a tropical American forest, but at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Jaguars are of course spotted cats, with dark rosettes on a lighter background. Leopards (Panthera pardus), found in Africa and Asia, are rather similar, but jaguars have a dot in the middle of many of the rosettes. Jaguars also have a relatively larger head and more muscular forequarters, which are also noticeable in the next picture.As Jerry noted in his post, Allen and colleagues found that spotted patterns were significantly associated with closed or forested habitats. The jaguar is a bit of a problem in this regard, as it is a habitat generalist, found in the semi-desert of the southwestern US and northern Mexico, as well as in Neotropical rainforests. The authors attempted to account for varying degrees of habitat usage and specialization, although they did apparently miss the jaguar’s occurrence in semi-desert.