As the third-largest member of the Felidae family, and the largest big cat in the Americas, the mighty Panthera onca, aka the Jaguar, is a formidable apex predator. It has no threat from any other species in the animal kingdom (with the exception of humans), and its strength, stamina, and extreme stealth make it one of the world's most lethal predators. |
This magnificent beast's incredible strength and accuracy as a predator comes not only from its impressive physique, but also from the sheer power of its massive jaws – which can deliver a bite force of 700 psi (pounds per square inch).
Panthera onca has a muscular, stocky body, with short legs – making it adept at crawling, climbing and swimming – and a large, broad head. Its extremely powerful jaws and razor sharp canine teeth enable to make short work of its hapless prey with one crushing bite.
A Jaw Designed for Killing
Entirely carnivorous in its diet, nothing is off-limits and the big cat's prey includes anything from small rodents and mammals to deer, cattle, turtles and even anacondas. It employs a 'stalk and ambush' method of hunting, silently tracking its prey along forest trails and leaping from cover to make the kill. It will scale trees to prepare for an ambush and also hunts along riverbanks and in the water. It is one of the few big cats comfortable in water and is, in fact, a fast and very capable swimmer.
Believed to have the strongest bite of all the felines, its incredibly mighty jaw affords it a deadly accurate method of killing by pouncing upon its prey and crushing the skull with a single bite of its canine teeth, right between the ears. The bite penetrates the temporal bones of the skull and pierces the brain, rendering the animal dead instantaneously. The skull bite is its preferred way of killing larger mammals, but it may also employ the common throat bite and suffocation method, or a simple but deadly swipe of the paw for smaller prey. Even turtle shells and reptilian armour are no match, and the Jaguar can tear open the toughest turtle shells with its large canine teeth. The incredible strength of its jaw structure and teeth also enables it to drag heavy carcasses considerable distances into dense cover, in order to feed in seclusion.
Jaguar Watching Tours
For avid nature lovers, a dedicated Jaguar watching tour is one of the most sought after wildlife experiences available. Accompanied by expert naturalist guides, participants will travel deep into prime habitat within the Brazilian Pantanal to observe the spotted big cat in its natural habitat.
The big cats hunt predominantly in the periods around dawn and dusk, under the cover of relative darkness. Professionally organised Jaguar watching trips may provide the opportunity to catch these elusive animals on the hunt, with excursions at different times, including pre-dawn and night-time safaris.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Jaguar watching in the Brazilian Pantanal region. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led wildlife holidays organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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