Leopardus pardalis, the ocelot, ranges from southern Texas to northern Argentina. It has been extirpated from Arkansas, Louisiana, eastern Texas and Arizona, where it ranged until historic times. A few transient Sonoran ocelots (L. p. sonoriensis) may migrate along drainages with subtropical vegetation from Mexico into Arizona. Leopardus pardalis is nocturnal and prefers areas of dense vegetation, from tropical forests to arid grasslands. It may hunt in open areas under cover of night. Leopardus pardalis preys upon small vertebrates, primarily rodents. Leopardus pardalis is listed on CITES Appendix I. Endangered status has been given to Leopardus pardalis by the U.S. and to L. p. albescens (Texas ocelot) by the IUCN.
Fossils of the ocelot and other small spotted cats of the Americas are rare. Late Pleistocene (roughly 500,000 to 10,000 years before present) remains of Leopardus pardalis have only been found in Florida, Mexico (Yucatán), and Brazil. Morphological and molecular data support the sister-taxon relationship between L. pardalis and L. wiedii (margay). These sympatric species are hypothesized to have diverged 3 million years ago, and are part of an ocelot lineage that also includes L. geoffroyi (Geoffroys cat), L. tigrinus (tigrina), Oncifelis guigna (kodkod), and Lynchailurus colocolo (Pampas cat). This lineage was part of the Great American Faunal Interchange and its members migrated into South America via the Panamanian land bridge 3-5 million years ago.
Leopardus pardalis was one of six neotropical felids included in a study by Kiltie (1984) documenting body size (weight and length), bite force, and gape. Its relative maximum bite force (= 1395 +/- 240 mm2) and relative maximum gape (= 73 +/- 5.2 mm) were calculated utilizing measurements of the crania and the dentaries. The range of the relative maximum gape of L. pardalis does not overlap the ranges of Puma concolor (puma) and Panthera onca (jaguar), and the size ratios among these felids are constant. This suggests that L. pardalis may have evolved to specialize on prey of a particular size.
About the Species
This specimen, a female of the subspecies mearnsi, was collected in Puntarenas Prov., Costa Rica, 10 km SE of trail of Finca el Helechales in October of 1994. It was made available to The University of Texas High-Resolution X-ray CT Facility for scanning courtesy of Drs. Blaire Van Valkenburgh and Jessica Theodor, Department of Organismic Biology, Ecology, and Evolution, University of California, Los Angeles. Funding for scanning was provided by Dr. Van Valkenburgh and by a National Science Foundation Digital Libraries Initiative grant to Dr. Timothy Rowe of The University of Texas at Austin. The ocelot is one of several felid carnivorans included in ongoing research of respiratory turbinates by Drs. Van Valkenburgh and Theodor.
About this Specimen
The specimen was scanned by Richard Ketcham on 20 April 2001 along the coronal axis for a total of 405 slices, each slice 0.336 mm thick, with an interslice spacing of 0.336 mm. The dataset displayed was reduced for optimal Web delivery from the original, much higher-resolution CT data.
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Leopardus pardalis on the IUCN Cat Specialist Group website
Leopardus pardalis on The Animal Diversity Web (The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology)
Leopardus pardalis on The Mammals of Texas Online Edition
Wild Facts on Leopardus pardalis from the BBC Online website (includes audio)
Leopardus pardalis on Big Cats Online
See more images of Leopardus pardalis from Last Refuge Ltd.
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