Check out this video footage of a Jaguar hunting and killing a giant Cayman on a Brazilian river bank.
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The jaguar (Panthera onca), also known in South America as painted onça, is a wild cat species and the only extant member of the genus Panthera native to the Americas. The jaguar’s present range extends from Southwestern United States and Mexico across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. Though there are single cats now living within the western United States, the species has largely been extirpated from the United States since the early 20th century. It is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List; and its numbers are declining. Threats include loss and fragmentation of habitat.
The jaguar is the largest cat species in the Americas and the third-largest after the tiger and the lion. This spotted cat closely resembles the leopard, but is usually larger and sturdier. It ranges across a variety of forested and open terrains, but its preferred habitat is tropical and subtropical moist broad leaf forest, swamps and wooded regions.
The jaguar enjoys swimming and is largely a solitary, opportunistic, stalk-and-ambush predator at the top of the food chain. As a keystone species it plays an important role in stabilizing ecosystems and regulating prey populations.
The jaguar has an exceptionally powerful bite, even relative to the other big cats. This allows it to pierce the shells of armored reptiles and to employ an unusual killing method: it bites directly through the skull of prey between the ears to deliver a fatal bite to the brain.
While international trade in jaguar or its body parts is prohibited, the cat is still frequently killed, particularly in conflicts with ranchers and farmers in South America. Although reduced, its range remains large. Given its historical distribution, the jaguar has featured prominently in the mythology of numerous indigenous American cultures, including those of the Maya and Aztec.
The word ‘jaguar’ is thought to derive from the Tupian word yaguara, meaning “beast of prey”. The word entered English presumably via the Amazonian trade language Tupinambá, via Portuguese jaguar. The specific word for jaguar is yaguareté, with the suffix -eté meaning “real” or “true”.
The word ‘panther’ derives from classical Latin panthēra, itself from the ancient Greek pánthēr (πάνθηρ). The Greek pan- (πάν), meaning “all”, and thēr (θήρ), meaning “prey” bears the meaning of “predator of all animals”. Use of the word for a beast originated in antiquity in the Orient, probably from India to Persia to Greece.
In Mexican Spanish, its nickname is el tigre: 16th century Spaniards had no native word in their language for the jaguar, which is smaller than a lion, but bigger than a leopard, nor had ever encountered it in the Old World, and so named it after the tiger, since its ferocity would have been known to them through Roman writings and popular literature during the Renaissance. Onca is the Portuguese onça, with the cedilla dropped for typographical reasons, found in English as ounce for the snow leopard, Panthera uncia. It derives from the Latin lyncea lynx, with the letter L confused with the definite article (Italian lonza, Old French l’once).