Wildlife & Biodiversity

Male jaguars form ‘coalitions’ too like lions and cheetahs

Panthera study finds male jaguars form multi-year alliances to secure prey, mating opportunities and territories

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 08 December 2022
In Brazil’s southern Pantanal region, two males cooperated from 2006-2014. Photo: NHK-JapanBroadcastingGroup __

The jaguar, the great cat of the Americas, has till now been considered a solitary species. But a new study has challenged this commonly held assumption. There is now video and photographic evidence available which shows that wild male jaguars form coalitions, just like their cat cousins lions and cheetahs.

The study, co-authored by Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organisation, the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research and partners, found that male jaguars collaborate to secure prey, improve chances of mating and defend or expand their territories, according to a statement.

The research team analysed data from five studies that used camera trapping, GPS telemetry and direct observations of male jaguars in the Venezuelan Llanos and Brazilian Pantanal. These areas have abundant prey as well as high densities of female jaguars.

The team recorded 105 interactions between males out of more than 7,000 records. Some 70 of these 105 interactions were classified as cooperation or forming of a coalition. Nine interactions were classified as social tolerance and just 18 were considered aggressive.

The experts found that in two studies, two male jaguars formed stable partnerships that endured more than seven years each.

Read Don't assume Pantanal's jaguars are safe. Here is why

“In Brazil’s southern Pantanal region, two males cooperated from 2006-2014, during which they patrolled territories together, communicated vocally with one other, shared a tapir kill and even rested side by side. In the Llanos, each coalition male paired and mated with several female jaguars,” the statement noted.

Behaviours observed by the scientists among male jaguars — patrolling and marking territory together, invading territories of other males, collaborative chasing and killing of other jaguars and sharing prey — have previously been recorded in lions (which form prides) and cheetahs (which sometimes form male bachelor groups).

The statement noted that unlike the two other feline species, male jaguars spent less time together and did not cooperate with females to raise cubs. The jaguar coalitions were formed between a maximum of two unrelated males, unlike those observed in cheetahs and lions.

“While high prey and female jaguar densities likely drove male jaguars to turn to these newly-observed social behaviours, this contrasts with previous data on lions, where male group size has correlated with female group size. Access to females may also drive the formation of male coalitions in cheetahs,” the statement said.

The jaguar is found from Mexico to Argentina. The species has been eradicated from nearly 50 per cent of its historic habitat.

Jaguar range is noted as overlapping with most of the Americas’ tropical forests, providing 17 per cent of the world’s carbon storage and sequestration, benefitting 53 million people.

The study was published in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology on December 7, 2022

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