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Puma Puma concolor (Linnaeus, 1771)
Least Concern
A lithe, slender animal, the puma has strong and very muscular limbs. The neck is comparatively long and the body rather elongate. They have relatively small heads with short faces. The dark ears are rounded, and not tufted. Characteristically the puma’s hind legs are longer than the front. This difference, which elevates the rump, is the greatest in the cats, and is believed to be an adaptation for jumping. A long heavy cylindrical tail is used as a counterbalance.

The belly of a puma is whitish, and the upper lips, chin and throat are almost pure white. The sides of the muzzle are black as is the tip of the tail. Pale median patches mark the back of the ears in most but not all pumas. In tropical regions, the pumas’ pelage is short and bristly, in the higher latitudes it is longer and softer. Even in the same locality, coloration varies considerably. There seem to be two colour phases, a red and a grey phase. Red phased individuals are buff, cinnamon and tawny. They appear to predominate in tropical regions. Grey phased pumas tend to be silvery grey to bluish and slaty grey. Darker animals are found in the humid forests of the north Pacific coast, and all-black or melanistic forms have been recorded from South and Central America but never from North America.

Pumas were once cited as good examples of Bergman’s rule, which states that animals in cooler climates are expected to have a large body size to reduce heat loss. A study showed (see Kitchener 1991) that pumas from the equator were smaller than those at the geographical latitudinal extremes. On average the equatorial animals were almost half the size of the Canadian and Patagonian pumas. However, this has been demonstrated to be the result of differences in seasonal food availability. This illustrates the variability of puma morphology. Generally they are described as being about the size of a leopard.

Usually classified in the genus Felis, Wozencraft (1993) has placed the puma in its own genus, Puma. Despite looking like a big cat, they have many of the attributes of a small cat. Pumas can purr continuously, which the Panthera cats are unable to do. Pumas lack a thick pad of fibrous tissue in their larynxes (Why Big Cats Can Roar. Cat News 11, 1989, p.17). They can produce high pitched screams because the supporting bones of the tongue (the hyoid apparatus) are completely ossified. Their anterior upper premolars are present.

Principal Dimensions
Overall Males Females
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