Puma (genus)

Puma is a genus in the family Felidae that contains the cougar (also known as the puma, among other names), and may also include several poorly known Old World fossil representatives (for example, Puma pardoides, or Owen's panther, a large, cougar-like cat of Eurasia's Pliocene).[2][3] In addition to these potential Old World fossils, a few New World fossil representatives are possible, such as Puma pumoides[4] and the two proposed species of the so-called "American cheetah".[5]

Temporal range: PlioceneHolocene, 3–0 Ma
CMM MountainLion
Cougar (Puma concolor)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Puma
Jardine, 1834
Type species
Felis concolor
Linnaeus, 1771
Cougar range map 2010
Puma range.
  • Herpailurus Severtzow, 1858
  • Viretailurus Hemmer, 1964


Pumas are large, secretive cats. They are also commonly known as cougars and mountain lions, and are able to reach larger sizes than some other "big" cat individuals. Despite their large size, they are thought to be more closely related to smaller feline species. The seven subspecies of pumas all have similar characteristics, but tend to vary in color and size. Pumas are thought to be one of the most adaptable of felines on the American continents, because they are found in a variety of different habitats, unlike other various cat species.[6]

Extant species

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
8th Place - Mountain Lion (7487178290) Puma concolor cougar northern Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes

Distribution and habitat

Members of the genus Puma are primarily found in the mountains of North and South America, where a majority of individuals can be found in rocky crags and pastures lower than the slopes grazing herbivores inhabit. Though they choose to inhabit those areas, they are highly adaptive and can be found in a large variety of habitats, including forests, tropical jungle, grasslands, and even arid desert regions. Unfortunately, with the expansion of human settlements and land clearance, the cats are being pushed into smaller, more hostile areas. However, their high adaptability will likely allow them to avoid disappearing from the wild forever.[6]

Anatomy and appearance

Subspecies of the genus Puma include cats that are the fourth-largest in the cat family. Adult males can reach around 7.9 feet from nose to tip of tail, and a body weight typically between 115 and 220 lb. Females can reach around 6.7 ft from nose to tail, and a body weight between 64 and 141 lb. They also have tails ranging from 25 to 37 in long. The heads of these cats are round, with erect ears. They have powerful forequarters, necks, and jaws which help grasp and hold prey. They have four retractable claws on their fore paws, and also their hind paws.

The majority of pumas are found in more mountainous regions, so they have a thick fur coat to help retain body heat during freezing winters. Depending on subspecies and the location of their habitat, the puma's fur varies in color from brown-yellow to grey-red. Individuals that live in colder climates have coats that are more grey than individuals living in warmer climates with a more red color to their coat. Pumas are incredibly powerful predators with muscular hind legs, which are slightly longer and stronger than the front, that enable them to be great leapers. They are able to leap as high as 18 ft into the air and as far as 40–45 ft horizontally. They can reach speeds up to 50 mph, but they are much better adapted for short and powerful sprints to catch their prey.[6]

Behavior and lifestyle

Members of the genus live solitarily, with the exception of the time cubs spend with their mothers. Individuals cover a large home range searching for food, covering a distance around 80 mi2 during the summers and 40 mi2 during the winters. They are also able to hunt at night just as effectively as they can during the day. Members of the genus are also known to make a variety of different sounds, particularly used when warning another individual away from their territory or during the mating season when looking for a mate.[6]

A study released in 2017 suggests that pumas have a secret social life only recently captured on film. They were seen sharing their food kills with other nearby pumas. They share many social patterns with more gregarious species such as chimpanzees.[7]


Members of this genus are large and powerful carnivores. The majority of their diet includes small animals such as mice, rats, birds, fish, and rabbits. Larger individuals are able to catch larger prey such as bighorn sheep, deer, guanaco, mountain goats, raccoons, and coati. They occasionally take livestock in areas with high populations of them.[6]

Reproduction and life cycles

Breeding season normally occurs between December and March, with a three-month gestation period resulting in a litter size up to six kittens. After mating, male and female part ways; the male continues on to mate with other females for the duration of the mating season, while the female cares for the kittens on her own. Like most other felines, kittens are born blind and remain completely helpless for about 2 weeks until their eyes open. Kittens are born with spots and eventually lose all of them as they reach adulthood. The spots allow the kittens to hide better from predators. Kittens are able to eat solid food when they reach 2–3 months of age, and remain with their mother for about a year. The life expectancy of individuals in the wild averages 12 years, but can reach up to 25 years in captivity.[6]


Although they have been pushed into smaller habitats by human settlement expansion, members of the genus have been designated least-concern species by the IUCN, indicating low risk of becoming extinct in their natural environments in the near future. This is due to their high adaptiveness to changing habitat conditions. In fact, many feel the pumas' ability to adapt to different environments explains their current numbers.[6] However, in many large metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, California, pumas' habitats have been fragmented by urban development and massive freeways. These barriers have made it nearly impossible for populations of mountain lions in specific areas of mountain ranges to reach one another to breed and increase genetic diversity. While their numbers still remain at decent levels, the number of kittens that are inbred is rising every year. This poses a threat to these already-reduced communities of mountain lions that are forced to quickly adapt to shrinking habitats and increased run-ins with humans. Many researchers from the National Park Service are using their findings to propose ideas to cities like Los Angeles, which harbors large populations of urban wildlife, to increase conservation efforts in areas on both sides of freeways, and begin the process of building land bridges for wildlife to safely cross freeways.[8]

See also

  • Acinonychini
  • Path of the Puma: The Remarkable Resilience of the Mountain Lion


  1. ^ Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 544–545. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ Hemmer, H. (1965). Studien an "Panthera" schaubi Viret aus dem Villafranchien von Saint-Vallier (Drôme). Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen 122, 324–336.
  3. ^ Hemmer, H., Kahlike, R.-D. & Vekua, A. K. (2004). The Old World puma Puma pardoides (Owen, 1846) (Carnivora: Felidae) in the Lower Villafranchian (Upper Pliocene) of Kvabebi (East Georgia, Transcaucasia) and its evolutionary and biogeographical significance. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen 233, 197–233.
  4. ^ Chimento, Nicolas Roberto, Maria Rosa Derguy, and Helmut Hemmer. "Puma (Herpailurus) pumoides (Castellanos, 1958)(Mammalia, Felidae) del Plioceno de Argentina." Serie Correlación Geológica 30.2 (2015).
  5. ^ Barnett, Ross, et al. "Evolution of the extinct Sabretooths and the American cheetah-like cat." Current Biology 15.15 (2005): R589-R590.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Puma (Felis concolor)". Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  7. ^ Palmieri, Tim (2017-10-12). "The Secret Social Live of a Solitary Puma". Scientific American. Retrieved 2017-10-12.
  8. ^ Ernest, Holly B.; Wayne, Robert K.; Dalbeck, Lisa; Sikich, Jeffrey A.; Pollinger, John P.; Serieys, Laurel E. K.; Riley, Seth P. D. (2014-09-08). "Individual Behaviors Dominate the Dynamics of an Urban Mountain Lion Population Isolated by Roads". Current Biology. 24 (17): 1989–1994. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2014.07.029. ISSN 0960-9822. PMID 25131676.

External links

  • Media related to Puma at Wikimedia Commons
  • Data related to Puma at Wikispecies

The cougar (Puma concolor), also commonly known by other names including catamount, mountain lion, panther, and puma, is a large felid of the subfamily Felinae native to the Americas.

Its range, from the Canadian Yukon to the southern Andes of South America, is the widest of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. An adaptable, generalist species, the cougar is found in most American habitat types. It is the biggest cat in North America, and the second-heaviest cat in the New World after the jaguar. Secretive and largely solitary by nature, the cougar is properly considered both nocturnal and crepuscular, although daytime sightings do occur. The cougar is more closely related to smaller felines, including the domestic cat (subfamily Felinae), than to any species of subfamily Pantherinae, of which only the jaguar is native to the Americas.

The cougar is an ambush predator that pursues a wide variety of prey. Primary food sources are ungulates, particularly deer. It also hunts species as small as insects and rodents. This cat prefers habitats with dense underbrush and rocky areas for stalking, but can also live in open areas. The cougar is territorial and survives at low population densities. Individual territory sizes depend on terrain, vegetation, and abundance of prey. While large, it is not always the apex predator in its range, yielding to the jaguar, gray wolf, American black bear, and grizzly bear. It is reclusive and mostly avoids people. Fatal attacks on humans are rare, but have recently been increasing in North America as more people enter cougar territories.Intensive hunting following European colonization of the Americas and the ongoing human development of cougar habitat has caused populations to drop in most parts of its historical range. In particular, the North American cougar was extirpated in eastern North America in the beginning of the 20th century, except for the isolated Florida panther subpopulation. Transient males have been verified in Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois (where a cougar was shot in the city limits of Chicago), and in at least one instance, observed as far east as coastal Connecticut. Reports of eastern cougars (P. c. cougar) still surface, although it was declared extirpated in 2011.

Florida panther

The Florida panther is a North American cougar P. c. couguar population. In South Florida, it lives in pinelands, hardwood hammocks, and mixed swamp forests.

Males can weigh up to 160 lb (73 kg) and live within a range that includes the Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park, the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Picayune Strand State Forest, rural communities of Collier County, Florida including Golden Gate Estates, Hendry County, Florida, Lee County, Florida, Miami-Dade County, Florida, and Monroe County, Florida. This population, the only unequivocal cougar representative in the eastern United States, currently occupies 5% of its historic range. In the 1970s, an estimated 20 Florida panthers remained in the wild, but their numbers had increased to an estimated 230 by 2017.In 1982, the Florida panther was chosen as the Florida state animal.It was formerly classified as a distinct puma subspecies (Puma concolor coryi).

Gulf Coast jaguarundi

The Gulf Coast jaguarundi is a population of the jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi). Two of these populations—the Gulf Coast jaguarundi and the Sinaloan jaguarundi—are considered endangered and were put on the endangered list on June 14, 1976. These cats are placed under the family Felidae and the subfamily Felinae because of their small size. As of 2017, the Cat Classification Taskforce of the Cat Specialist Group does not recognise any subspecies of jaguarundi.


The jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi) ( ZHAG-wə-RUN-dee) or eyra is a small wild cat native to southern North America and South America. It has been listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List since 2002. The megareserves of the Amazon Basin are probably the only conservation units that can sustain long-term viable populations.In some Spanish-speaking countries, the jaguarundi is also called gato colorado, gato moro, león brenero, tigrillo, and leoncillo. The Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation of its common English and Portuguese name is [ʒɐɡwɐɾũˈdʒi]. It is also called gato-mourisco, eirá, gato-preto, and maracajá-preto in Portuguese. Jaguarundi comes from Old Tupi yawaum'di.

La Selva Biological Station

La Selva Biological Station is a protected area encompassing 1,536 ha of low-land tropical rain forest in northeastern Costa Rica. It is owned and operated by the Organization for Tropical Studies, a consortium of universities and research institutions from the United States, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico. Recognized internationally as one of the most productive field stations in the world for tropical forest research and peer-reviewed publications, La Selva hosts approximately 300 scientists and 100 university courses every year. The primary goal of La Selva Biological Station is to preserve and protect an intact forest, as well as providing laboratory facilities for tropical research and education. The research potential of the area is not only vital to tropical ecology, but it is also an important location in the effort to study relations between local communities and protected areas. In addition, its high diversity and ease of access to the Puerto Viejo-Horquetas highway makes La Selva an important ecotourism destination and environmental education center for tourists and the local community.

North American cougar

The North American cougar (Puma concolor couguar), is a population of the mountain lion in North America. It was once commonly found in eastern North America, and is still prevalent in the western half of the continent. It is the biggest wild cat in North America.The subspecies P. c. couguar encompasses populations found in the United States, western Canada, the critically endangered Florida panther population, the extinct eastern cougar, Mexico and Central America, and possibly South America northwest of the Andes Mountains. Western populations of the cougar are occasionally seen in the former range of the extinct eastern population. The population in Costa Rica had been listed as least concern by the IUCN Red List.

Puma pardoides

Puma pardoides, sometimes called the Eurasian puma or Owen's panther, is an extinct prehistoric cat. It was long regarded as a primitive species of leopard (genus Panthera). Recent work however has shown that Panthera pardoides and Panthera schaubi are actually the same species, and are probably not pantherine at all, but a member of Felinae related to the cougar, making them more properly classified as Puma pardoides.

Puma pumoides

Puma pumoides is an extinct prehistoric cat that was described in 1956 by Alfredo Castellanos using the scientific name Felis pumoides. Castellanos excavated its fossil remains in the Reartes Valley located in the province of Córdoba, Argentina, in a stratum called 'Brocherense bed', which probably dates to the Pliocene.

Fossil remains comprised a maxilla, the orbital section of the frontal bone, a part of a mandible, a petrosal, a femur, a lumbar vertebrae, and a few parts of each a humerus, tibia, ulna, and radius. Because of the similarity of these holotype parts with jaguarundi, it was preliminarily subordinated to the genus Puma.

South American cougar

The South American cougar (Puma concolor concolor) is a cougar subspecies occurring in northern and western South America, from Colombia and Venezuela to Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

Extant Carnivora species

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