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I’m exploring the ecology of my world. I know that I want a big cat that only lives in forests like a tiger, and another that can survive deserts, grasslands, and forest like a leopard or puma. I know that I’d prefer animals native to north and South America though I’d be open to afroeurasian cats. A tiger and leopard works perfectly, but as said I’d prefer cats native to the America’s. A puma nearly perfectly replaces Pumas but nothing fits the forest dwelling tiger. But what about the jaguar, I asked myself. As I looked into it, Jaguars aren’t exactly like tigers and they have characteristics from leopards, tigers, and even lions. They appear to occupy a unique niche not seen on other continents (could this be because of the absence of large predators like lions or tigers?)

That got me thinking, could tigers, leopards (or maybe pumas), and jaguars exist on the same continent in close together or similar biomes/climates? Jaguars could be further more water adapted, always hunting near water as well as forests, doing best in wetlands. Tigers could be less water adapted and reside in forests and areas with tall grass. Leopards (or pumas) could live in forests, grasslands, and deserts, while hunting smaller prey that leopards common indulge in.

So, could this be possible and what things may happen as result of the three cats living along side each other? Would jaguars and tigers often come into conflict?

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  • $\begingroup$ Considering that all those species are part of the same genus. And branched [relatively] recently, and still able to crossbreed. The most like would either breed into one species or migrate to the different biomes and stay separate species (like it is now). $\endgroup$
    – user28434
    Jul 17 '20 at 9:57
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    $\begingroup$ south east asia have tiger and leopard coexist though also india, for example sumatra tiger and sumatra clouded leopard in the same sumatra island at least, and this is tropical jungle. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Jul 17 '20 at 10:09
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Tigers and leopards would coexist fine, they already do so throughout much of Asia. Jaguars would be more difficult, jaguars basically overlap in niche with tigers and leopards in some way and the two would likely compete with each other. You might be able to get lions, jaguars, and leopards coexisting (mountain lions, jaguars, and lions coexisted in ice age North America), but probably not three cats that are this similar. If a species doesn't have at least one part of a niche all to itself, it is likely to go extinct even if no one species directly competes with it.

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This would work fine.

Your tigers are wide ranging and go everywhere. There are not that many. They are large prey specialists, killing animals too big for the smaller cats. When tigers are young they climb trees but older tigers are really big and so climb only with difficulty. Like lions (or any predator!) tigers will steal prey from smaller cats or non-cat predators whenever they get the chance.

The jaguars and leopards will both use trees, as they do. Smaller tigers could go up a tree to try to steal a kill but the leopard / jaguar might stand its ground. Jaguars will be in deep forest and wet areas. Leopards will be in savannah and grasslands. Both of them will take prey up into trees to escape the big tigers but also to escape pack hunters of various sorts (leopard) or crocodilians (jaguar) which can steal a kill from a solitary cat.

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