Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Class: Mammalia, Order: Carnivor, Family: Felidae, Genus: Felis, Species: Concolor, or otherwise known as, Cougar. Cougars are also known as the Mountain Lion or puma and have the largest natural range distribution throughout the western hemisphere. This paper will cover characteristics of the cougar, the ancestry to the Cougar, and what adaptations the cougar has gone through to survive in its habitat today.
Unlike the lions of Africa, mountain lions otherwise known as cougars do not roar. They instead use a range of vocals from purrs, mews, hisses, growls, spits, and screams. (Mountain Lion, 2006)
They are solitary hunters, cougars depend on certain traits to stalk and ambush their prey. Their keen senses, muscular body and adaptability make it well-matched as a predator. Cougars have large paws and have the largest proportional hind legs in the cat family. This structure allows the cougar to leap great heights and sprint short distances. Cougars are able to jump up 18 feet into a tree from the ground, and 20 feet up or down a hillside. Although the cougar is best adapted for short, powerful sprints it has the capability to run up to speeds as fast as 35–45 miles per hour. Cougars can get up to approximately 190lbs, give or take 20lbs depending on its sex. Cougars even though they are not strongly connected with the water, will swim. Due to their extraordinary vision cougars are both nocturnal and crepuscular hunters. All of these traits allow the cougar to hunt from the ground or from and elevated position.
When hunting from the ground the cougar will attack its prey from behind closing the distance by running or with several bounds. When catching its prey they will usually strike with a force that will knock the animal off their feet. This enables the cougar to take down larger prey. Cougars will also attack from an elevated position, but they will almost never jump directly onto their prey. This would cause for instability and possible injury to the cougar. They will land close to their prey and attack from there as to ensure accuracy and avoid injury. They kill their prey with a bite to the back of the neck at the base of the skull. This insures that their large canines are inserted between the prey’s vertebrae, breaking the spinal cord. Their adapt tactics allow them to take down prey larger than they are, often up to seven times their size. Cougars are carnivores; their diet is principally deer and elk. Cougars are also known to be adept at hunting smaller animals on occasion. One cougar is able consume approximately one deer every seven to ten days; this amount goes up if it is a cougar raising cubs.
The evolution of the Cougar is still ongoing, as there are many unanswered questions. The cougar is believed to have originated as a part of the feline family five to six million years ago. Although scientific world does not have the cougar fossil records it would like, they do believe that the cougar may have first lived in the areas of Asia. This has led them to the conclusion that the cougars crossed the hypothetical Bering Strait into the western hemisphere around eight million years ago. The studies of the cougars’ genetic material show that it is closely related to the cheetah. Today there are six subspecies of cougar which include: Argentine Cougar, Eastern South American Cougar, Costa Rican Cougar, North American Cougar, Northern South American Cougar, and the Southern South American Cougar.
Cougars have been known to live in the following environments: Mountain forest, Mountain Deserts, Jungles, and Swamps. Due to the Cougars ability to adapt to different environments has allowed them to survive when so many of the feline species seem to be going extinct.
We can only assume what changes the cougar has gone through since its beginnings as scientific data is not available to confirm our conclusions. The Cougar has the adapted larger hind legs enabling it to be the perfect hunter. In fact the whole body of a cougar is more a slender and muscular compared to other American cats.
Along with the size, coloring and agility we see that the cougar is able to adapt too many different environments. The diet of a cougar ranges from habitat to habitat consisting of Deer, elk moose, bighorn sheep, cattle, horses, sheep and will also insects and rodents.
The Cougar has adapted well to its wide variety of habitats, and evolved in shape and skills to successfully thrive while many cats are withering away. The fascinating skill of the Cougars eye sight and other highly developed hunting skills give it an advantage when feeding in the darkness of the forest. Cougars are solitary majestic animals that have a lot of mystery surrounding them. For the most part they are left alone in their ecosystems and except for humans who are the cougar’s main predator.
Mountain Lion. (2006). Retrieved October 14, 2012, from Phoenix Zoo: ww.phoenixzoo.org Characteristics of the Cougar. (2012). Retrieved October 14, 2012, from The Cougar Fund: www.cougarfund.org Cook, E. M. (2010, 26 September). Cougar. Retrieved October 14, 2012, from DeviatART: http://wiggle-chicken.deviantart.com/art/Cougar-Muscles-180556978 Hansen, K. (2009). The Consumate Cat. Retrieved October 14, 2012, from Mountain Lion Foundation: http://www.mountainlion.org/CAL_ch1.asp Nowak, R. (1991). Animal bytes. Retrieved October 14, 2012, from Animals : ww.seaworld.org Perry, A. (2002). Southern Utab Wildlife. Mountain Lion Jumping Between Boulders. Utah, United States.
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