Jaguar (Panthera onca) and puma (Puma concolor) are the largest felines in the Americas. They share the same habitat throughout most of their distribution. Both are strict carnivores, so knowledge of their feeding habits is fundamental for the design of conservation strategies, since diet plays a key role in the evolutionary behavior of predators. Likewise, the availability of prey is one of the main factors that determine the presence, behavior and ecology of predators in the ecosystems where they live. Predator-prey relationship influence the dynamics of communities, maintaining the balance of the ecosystem.
This study was conducted in 2008 in two areas near the Tuichi and Hondo rivers and the Quiquibey river. The first is located within the Madidi National Park; and the second, in the Pilón Lajas Biosphere Reserve and Indigenous Territory. Hair obtained from cat scats were collected; and morphological, cuticular and medullar analyses were carried out, comparing them with the WCS hair catalog to identify the species consumed.
Among the main results, a richness of 25 prey species was observed for jaguar and 28 for puma. Jaguars consume preferably large animals (>15 kg), especially white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari), which contributes a large part of the prey biomass (37%). Meanwhile, pumas feed on medium to large prey (1-15 kg), mainly the paca (Cuniculus paca), that makes a more significant contribution to its prey biomass (18 %).
In terms of trophic niche breadth: the jaguar tends to be more specialized in its diet (0.28) and the puma is more generalist (0.56). Although both cats share most of their prey, the jaguar consumes some prey more frequently and the puma others. Thus, there is no marked trophic niche overlap between the two cats (0.46). It is important to note that camera trap studies carried out at the same time as this work helped to obtain the relative abundance of jaguar and puma prey; this abundance showed that amongst the largest prey the white lipped peccary was the most abundant; and amongst the medium prey paca was one of the most abundant. Hence, prey was consumed according to their relative abundance by jaguar and puma respectively.
On the other hand, this study not only helped to improve knowledge about the ecology and behavior of both cats, but also allowed us to take into consideration that the prey most consumed by jaguars and pumas are also the most consumed by indigenous peoples. For this reason, this information is important for monitoring and managing subsistence hunting, so that the availability of prey does not affect either the indigenous communities or the felines. It will also contribute to decision-making to ensure biodiversity conservation in protected areas and their zones of influence.
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