Jaguar Evolution and Variations
The Jaguar is believed to be very closely related to the Leopard according to DNA testing. The earliest fossil remains we have of the Jaguar date back about 4 million years. Even so they don’t give us enough information to fully piece together what has taken place for them over the course of time.
The information we do have though indicates that early species of the Jaguar moved across the Bering Strait during the early Pleistocene. Those ancestors would have been extremely large compared to what they are today. They likely traveled to find new habitat for food and survival.
Many theories involve the idea that the forest areas of Central America and South America are where they settled. This type of evolution also helped them to save energy. At the same time it reduced the amount of food that they needed to eat daily.
Over that course of time though more branching off continued to take place. There are believed to be 3 subspecies of the Jaguar. There are experts that will argue though that there are actual 8. This is because they feel that the classifications should be further broken down. These subspecies are determined based on their location. They include:
Panthera Onca Arizonenis – Arizona and Mexico
Panthera Onca Centralis – Central America
Panthera Onca Goldmani – Mexico and Belize
Panthera Onca Hemandesii – Western Mexico
Panthera Onca Onca – Amazon Rainforest
Panthera Onca Palustris – Paraguay
Panthera Onca Peruvianas – Peru
Panthera Onca Veracrucis – Texas
There are some genetic mutations that occur for the Jaguars as well. One of them is melanism where they are all black in color. This is very rare in the wild but does occur. The number of them aren’t known as they are so often mistaken for the Panther. The opposite type of mutation due to genetics is albinism. These Jaguars are white in color and they too are very rare.
However, these genetic differences don’t count as separate subspecies of the Jaguar. That is why you will often read misleading information about the different number of them out there. The main differences of these subspecies of the Jaguar is their overall size. Some of them are very small while others are quite large. The difference comes from the type of food that they consume.
For example in some regions they have a diet that consists primarily of birds, frogs and reptiles including turtles. In the Amazon region they feed on larger prey like anacondas, caimans and capybaras. These animals often have a very bad reputation in some regions. Others are simply afraid of this feline due to the fact that it doesn’t show any fear of humans at all.
All of the subspecies of the Jaguar are considered to be near threatened at this point in time. They are at risk due to their continued destruction of the natural habitat areas. There are conservation efforts in place to hopefully slow down the further demise of it.