Jaguars Eat More Fish Than Previously Thought

Posted on November 24th 2021

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A group of jaguars in a wetland area of Brazil eat more fish than land animals, and are happy to socialise together according to a new report.

Jaguars were not thought to feed on large amounts of fish but for the first time this has now been shown to be incorrect. The research was carried out by Oregon State University alongside researchers in Brazil. The study location was the Brazilian Pantanal which is the worlds largest freshwater wetland habitat.

Difficult research location

Carrying out research in the Pantanal can be tricky given the nature of the habitat. There are few roads and the area is covered in swamp and marshland. To overcome this challenge researchers set up cameras that were triggered by movement, and put tracking devices on 13 jaguars.

During the course of their research the team gathered more than 1500 videos capturing footage of 69 different jaguars. Jaguars are known to be strong swimmers and lots of the videos show the animals swimming and catching fish and lizards that dwell in the water.

Scat analysis

Another part of their research involved analysing the jaguars scats. Over 130 scats were looked at and interestingly they mostly contained bones of fish and aquatic reptiles. Only 11% had mammal remains. Research on jaguars had previously shown that land mammals such as deer and monkeys form the majority of their diets. Finding a group of jaguars mostly surviving on fish and lizards was an interesting discovery as researchers didn’t believe that to be the case.

Social interaction

Additional findings from the research came in the form of the social nature of the jaguars they encountered. Largely thought to be solitary animals, jaguars were previously thought to only come together to mate or fight over territory. However, the footage showed two adult male jaguars playing, fishing and travelling together. Such interactions have not been captured before. The researchers believe this level of social interaction may be possible because of the nature of the habitat that they occupy. The wetlands provide an abundance of fish, and the jaguars have adapted to use that food source. With the absence of competition for food, the jaguars are able to be less territorial and be more social.

Hunting and habitat loss due to deforestation continue to threaten jaguar survival. To find out more about jaguar conservation and how you can help please visit our adopt a jaguar page.

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