Puma concolor, the puma, originally ranged throughout much of North, Central, and South America in habitats ranging from the Sonoran desert to 5,800 foot elevations in the Andes. It is among the most widely ranging American mammals. The puma has been extirpated from much of its former range over the last 500 years, notably in the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada. Loss of habitat by increased human development and conflicts with humans over livestock have led to the population decline. The Florida, Central American, and eastern North American subspecies (Puma concolor coryi, P. c. costaricensis, and P. c. couguar, respectively) are listed on CITES Appendix I and the Mexican, Mayan, and Missoula subspecies (P. c. azteca, P. c. mayensis, and P. c. missoulensis, respectively) are listed on Appendix II. The U.S. and IUCN have declared P. c. coryi, P. c. costaricensis, and P. c. couguar as endangered.
The oldest fossil record of Puma concolor dates to about 400,000 years before present. The puma was widely distributed in the Americas in the late Pleistocene. Analyses of morphological and molecular data obtained from extant felids recognize Puma concolor as most closely related to Herpailurus yagouaroundi (jaguarundi) and Acinonyx jubatus (cheetah). Fossils of their most recent common ancestor have yet to be identified, but mtDNA gene divergence data suggest that this ancestor was present in North America 8.25 million years ago.
Puma concolor has a body that is "pantherine" in general form, but the cranial proportions of a "small cat" (e.g., Felis and Lynx). Florida populations (P. c. coryi) are noted for their skulls having inflated nasals and a flattened frontal region, giving them a distinctive cranial profile (i.e., "Roman-nosed").
Analyses of the body of the dentary (specifically the region behind the canines) of Puma concolor illustrate that the puma, like other felids, is able to withstand strong mandibular bending resulting from biting with the canines. Pumas primarily prey upon ungulates such as deer, and when applying the killing bite on struggling prey, generate great bite forces.
About the Species
This specimen of Puma concolor, a female, 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 puma 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 25 October 2000 along the coronal axis for a total of 390 slices, each slice 0.50 mm thick with an interslice spacing of 0.50 mm. The dataset displayed was reduced for optimal Web delivery from the original, much higher resolution CT data.
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Puma concolor on the IUCN Cat Specialist Group website
Puma concolor on The Mammals of Texas Online Edition
Puma concolor on The Animal Diversity Web (The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology)
P. c. coryi on The Animal Diversity Web (The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology)
The brain of Puma concolor (Comparative Mammalian Brain Collections website)
Wild Facts on the puma from the BBC Online website (includes video)
Florida Panther Net (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)
Puma concolor on the Cyber Zoomobile
Felidae on the Cyber Zoomobile
Big Cats Online