The jaguar (Panthera onca) is the largest Neotropical felid and in many parts of its range reptiles form a significant but relatively minor component of its diet. However, in the seasonally flooded varzea forests of the Amazon, terrestrial mammals, which form an important component of jaguar diet in other habitats, are largely absent and jaguars switch to alternative prey, including arboreal mammals and reptiles. In the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve in the western Brazilian Amazon, we document predation by jaguars on two species of caiman (Caiman crocodilus and Melanosuchus niger), which are abundant in this varzea habitat. The smaller C. crocodilus seems to be particularly vulnerable because of its size and tendency to spend more time on land than the larger M. niger. Jaguars not only kill and eat caiman but are also a significant predator on eggs of both species. We place our findings into the context of jaguar predation on reptiles by reviewing studies of jaguar diet in a variety of biomes.
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Vol. 44 • No. 3