Jaguar’s Taste for Turtles

The jaguar has the strongest bite of all the cats and the strength of this enormously powerful bite is used to good effect to shatter the almost impregnable defences of the turtle and the armour of reptiles.

The turtle is a favourite meal of the jaguar
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The turtle is a favourite meal of the jaguar

The jaguar has been eating turtles for 2 million years! But today the turtle is becoming an increasing rare dinner for the jaguar because of humankind: people like turtles too and guess who wins. This is one way how wild cat species become extinct. Humans kill their prey to the point where the cat struggles to survive.

In the rainforests of Peru one-third of the prey of the jaguar, as identified by scats (faeces), were turtles, tortoises and caiman.

Jaguars kill both land and river turtles by breaking the carapace with their teeth. The smooth flat carapace of river turtles provides no hold for the teeth to get into and it is thicker on the top than the sides.

Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

Jaguars open them by breaking the edges of the carapace and making holes on both sides rather than enlarging a single hole on the top (see the lower picture on this page).

The tortoise shell is easier to get into as it has ridges for the teeth to grab so the jaguar eats from the top (see top image above).

Caiman are killed with a single crushing bite to the neck and then opened like a can along the sides of the body where there are no bony armour body plates.

The jaguar is the only cat that specialises on armoured reptiles as prey. There is a downside: they occasionally break their canine teeth (the long ones) 😉 . They sometimes lose an eye in catching caiman.

The jaguars’ taste for turtles and caiman is probably what brings this big cat, the third largest, to the waterside.

The USA authorities are trying to rewild the jaguar at the extreme south of the country.

The photos are by Louise H Emmons via an excellent book: Great Cats ISBN 0-87857-965-6

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

You may also like...

9 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    “Tortoises are easier to open” isn’t a very accurate description, as they have much tougher carapaces. Larger tortoises, in fact, are much harder to crack open and there is a limit to how big a tortoise carapace a jaguar bite can break into. The easier to hold theory is true, but it isn’t the only factor.

  2. Caroline Gifford says:

    Oh, boy. whew. You just about opened a can of worms with this one, Michael. A bit too graphic, for vn your taste? [nauseous,ick]

    The jaguar deserves to eat the turtle, if that indeed is their favored prey. We, on the other hand, do not.

  1. December 16, 2020

    […] almost any type of prey they encounter. Prey items range from turtle eggs to domestic cattle. Jaguars do eat turtles by crushing the carapace using their massive bite force. When captive they can be seen eating fish as demonstrated in the photograph below. Although fish […]

  2. April 9, 2021

    […] all the cats, wild and domestic, the jaguar has the strongest bite which is why they have developed a simple but effective way of killing some prey animals: stick […]

  3. August 13, 2021

    […] The fact that the serval feeds on small prey such as the Vlei rat and four-striped grass mouse has resulted in a further adaptation: a more lightly built skull and less powerful jaws. They don’t need strong jaws such as those of the jaguar which feeds on turtles and caiman. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *