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Jaguars, cougars survived Ice Age by adjusting diets

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File:Junior-Jaguar-Belize-Zoo.jpg
three-year-old jaguar in Belize/Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, CC

From National Geographic:

Jaguars are old cats. They first evolved in Eurasia sometime around three million years ago before spreading both west and east, eventually inhabiting a range from southern England to Nebraska and down into South America. Today’s range of southern Arizona to Argentina—over 3.4 million square miles—is only a sliver of their Ice Age expansion. And it wasn’t just the jaguar’s range that shrunk. Today the spotted cats are about fifteen percent smaller than their Pleistocene predecessors.Nevertheless, jaguars survived while the American lion, the sabercats, and other predators vanished. How? In order to investigate this question, biologist Matt Hayward and colleagues looked at the jaguar diet and how the cat’s prey preferences changed over time.

Crunching the numbers a bit further, the zoologists found that jaguars seemed to especially target capybara and giant anteater. On the other hand, jaguars never preyed upon tapirs and almost never touched primates.

Coyotes survived the Ice Age in a smaller form too.

And mountain lions?

The fossil record of cougars tells a similar story: By eating parts of carcasses other cats didn’t want, mountain lions were able to survive the tough times. And even though the cause of the loss of many Ice Age celebrities remains debated, the survivors are truly the animals we should be looking at in greater detail. How they succeeded may hold the secrets to why so many other species failed. More.

Good thinking. Greater knowledge of the factors that truly predict extinction would enable wiser conservation efforts than the usual frenzied appeals to save-the-This and save-the-That. One fears much donor money is wasted these days on crises that aren’t, unstoppable chains of events, and zealotry in conflict with political realities. Money is no different from any other source of power; it must be focused on achievable goals.

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See also: “Lazarus species”? Animals we thought were extinct

Jurassic Park, move over: There really IS such a thing as Lazarus DNA?

and

Extinct species reappears after 12 years

Astonishing footage:

One Reply to “Jaguars, cougars survived Ice Age by adjusting diets

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    How do they know jaguarrs were all those other places/ Why couldn’t convergent evolution acting on a basic cat frame just have like results? They say they once were bigger so why not different things.
    The reason these jags and mount lions survive is because they do still. There is enough food in the areas they live. those areas were not so hurt by the weather.
    It means there was great climate change in the past that eliminated most creatures.
    likewise monkeys and sloths in S America show this. yet once they were everywhere.
    It was only a few thousand years ago. The dating techniques are wrong.

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