Jaguar taxonomy and genetic diversity for southern Arizona, United States, and Sonora, Mexico

Open-File Report 2016-1109
Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
By:  and 


Executive Summary

The jaguar is the largest Neotropical felid and the only extant representative of the genus Panthera in the Americas. In recorded history, the jaguars range has extended from the Southern United States, throughout Mexico, to Central and South America, and they occupy a wide variety of habitats. A previous jaguar genetic study found high historical levels of gene flow among jaguar populations over broad areas but did not include any samples of jaguar from the States of Arizona, United States, or Sonora, Mexico. Arizona and Sonora have been part of the historical distribution of jaguars; however, poaching and habitat fragmentation have limited their distribution until they were declared extinct in the United States and endangered in Sonora. Therefore, a need was apparent to have this northernmost (Arizona/Sonora) jaguar population included in an overall jaguar molecular taxonomy and genetic diversity analyses. In this study, we used molecular genetic markers to examine diversity and taxonomy for jaguars in the Northwestern Jaguar Recovery Unit (NJRU; Sonora, Sinaloa, and Jalisco, Mexico; and southern Arizona and New Mexico, United States) relative to jaguars in other parts of the jaguar range (Central and South America). The objectives of this study were to:

  1. Collect opportunistic jaguar samples (hide, blood, hair, saliva, and scat), from historical and current individuals, that originated in NJRU areas of Arizona, New Mexico, and Sonora;
  2. Use these samples to assess molecular taxonomy of NJRU jaguars compared to data from a previous study of jaguars rangewide; and
  3. Develop suggestions for conservation of NJRU jaguars based on the results.

Suggested Citation

Culver, Melanie and Hein, A.O., 2016, Jaguar taxonomy and genetic diversity for southern Arizona, United States, and Sonora, Mexico: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016-1109, 20 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Study Objectives
  • Materials and Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Jaguar taxonomy and genetic diversity for southern Arizona, United States, and Sonora, Mexico
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2016-1109
DOI 10.3133/ofr20161109
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Seattle
Description iv, 20 p.
Country Mexico, United States
State Arizona, Jalisco, New Mexico, Sonora, Sinaloa
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details