Saturday, September 7, 2013

Moves like Jaguar

When big cats inhabit a certain region for long enough, they learn to specialize in whatever prey is available to them. (Duh.) It's a true testament to their variability and adaptability, and many local populations of cats pick up behaviors unseen anywhere else in their natural ranges. Some lions, for example, build Schwarzenegger-style muscles by charging through water to tackle buffalo in central Africa. Others are the typical plains-dwellers, chasing down wildebeest and zebras.

Jaguars Panthera onca are among the most adaptable of the big cats, and are powerful to boot. Ranging from South America to southern Arizona and Texas, they can be found in habitats ranging from wetlands to rainforests to savannahs and deserts. In each environment, they are the kings of their territory, able to hunt virtually any large prey in their area. In Costa Rica, jaguars have been hunting sea turtles which have come to shore to nest. They have also been known to attack the world's largest snake, the anaconda.

With powerful windpipe-crushing jaws and puncturing canines, jaguars make short work of whatever has the misfortune to wind up in their mouths. Turtle and armadillos shells and snake scales don't stand a chance. They are truly built for general predation, and will at least try to eat whatever they can manage.

Recently, wildlife photographer Justin Black captured footage of a large male jaguar known to local biologists as, awesomely enough, "Mick Jaguar." Looking at photos of Mick, you can see he's been through his fair share of life: blind in one eye and riddled with scars, the bulky cat has clearly been around the block more than a few times. In Black's series of photos, however, Mick reveals his true power as he swam across the River Cuiaba in the Brazilian Pantanal solely to hunt a basking caiman.

The photos, needless to say, are sick, in a holy-crap-I-wish-I-had-seen-this-in-person way. Such an encounter is not uncommon in the wild, but capturing such incredible footage is definitely rare. The eight-foot-long Yacare caiman Caiman yacare was carried off by Mick "like it was a doggie bone," according to Black.

For more photos and a full article, follow this link to Daily Mail Online.

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