Study documents first-known instance of male jaguars forming coalitions

Study documents first-known instance of male jaguars forming coalitions

The first known instance of male jaguars coordinating with each other to secure prey has been documented by researchers, contradicting long-held notions of the felines as a solitary species.

The study, published recently in the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, found that unrelated male jaguars may sometimes form “multi-year alliances” in regions with high densities of prey and female jaguars.

The findings suggest that these cats – the largest in the Western hemisphere that are found in countries ranging from Mexico to Argentina – are more social than previously thought.

Researchers assessed data from five studies that used camera trapping and direct jaguar observations in the Venezuelan Llanos and Brazilian Pantanal – home to forested savanna and flooded terrain environments with abundant aquatic and terrestrial prey.

Over 7,000 records were analysed and it was found that a few instances were of “social tolerance”, while some were ”aggressive”.

Of the 105 interactions recorded between males, 70 were classified as “cooperation or forming of a coalition”, with many of these cooperative behaviours found to be long lasting.

In two studies, two male jaguars formed stable partnerships that endured over seven years each.

The study reported that two males in the Southern Pantanal region of Brazil cooperated with each other from 2006-14, during which they patrolled territories together and even rested side by side.

“In Southern Pantanal I, two males formed a coalition between 2006 and 2014. The males were recorded together a total of 22 times. They patrolled territories together, rested side by side, communicated vocally with each other, mated with females in the presence of the other associated male, and shared an adult tapir carcass,” scientists wrote in the study.

While such coalition behaviours like patrolling and marking territory together have been observed in lions and cheetahs, scientists pointed out that unlike them, male jaguars usually spent less time together and did not cooperate with females to raise cubs.

“This novel finding shows that, when it serves their purpose of gaining greater access to prey, mates, and territory, wild male jaguars may collaborate, cooperate, and even form long-term relationships with former competitors,” said study co-author Allison Devlin, from Panthera, an organisation that is dedicated to conserving more than 40 of the world’s species of wild cats.

Based on the findings, Dr Devlin said the secret life of jaguars could be more complex than previously thought.

“Though the coalitions are small, our observations have revealed a unique behavior,” she noted in a blog post, adding that further research can help better conserve these wild cats which have been eradicated from nearly 50 per cent of their historic habitat.