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The jaguar (Panthera onca) is a large felid species and the only living member of the genus Panthera native to the Americas. Its distinctively marked coat features pale yellow to tan colored fur covered by spots that transition to darker rosettes on the sides. With a body length of up to 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in), it is the largest cat species in the Americas and the third largest in the world. Its powerful bite allows it to pierce the carapaces of turtles and tortoises, and to employ an unusual killing method: it bites directly through the skull of mammalian prey between the ears to deliver a fatal blow to the brain. The jaguar most likely entered the Americas from Eurasia during the Early Pleistocene via the land bridge that once spanned the Bering Strait. Jaguar fossils excavated in the Americas date back to 130,000 years BP. Today, the jaguar's range extends from extreme southern Arizona in the United States across Mexico and much of Central America, the Amazon rainforest and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. It inhabits a variety of forested and open terrains, but its preferred habitat is tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forest, wetlands and wooded regions. It is adept at swimming and is largely a solitary, opportunistic, stalk-and-ambush apex predator. As a keystone species, it plays an important role in stabilizing ecosystems and regulating prey populations. The jaguar is threatened by habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, poaching for trade with its body parts and killings in human–wildlife conflict situations, particularly with ranchers in Central and South America.
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