Digimorph, An NSF Digital Library at UT Austin, Texas
Browse the Library by:
 Scientific Names
 Common Names
 What's Popular?
Learn More
Overview Pages
A Production of

Leopardus pardalis, Ocelot
Dr. Pamela Owen - The University of Texas at Austin
Leopardus pardalis
Click for help
Click for more information

Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History (LACM 25127)

Image processing: Mr. Kevin Chovanec
Publication Date: 14 Nov 2006

Specimens: male | female


Leopardus pardalis, the ocelot, ranges from southern Texas to northern Argentina. It has been extirpated from Arkansas, Louisiana, eastern Texas and Arizona, where it ranged until historic times. A few transient Sonoran ocelots (L. p. sonoriensis) may migrate along drainages with subtropical vegetation from Mexico into Arizona. Leopardus pardalis is nocturnal and prefers areas of dense vegetation, from tropical forests to arid grasslands. It may hunt in open areas under cover of night. Leopardus pardalis preys upon small vertebrates, primarily rodents. Leopardus pardalis is listed on CITES Appendix I. Endangered status has been given to Leopardus pardalis by the U.S. and to L. p. albescens (Texas ocelot) by the IUCN.

Leopardus pardalis

Fossils of the ocelot and other “small spotted cats” of the Americas are rare. Late Pleistocene (roughly 500,000 to 10,000 years before present) remains of Leopardus pardalis have only been found in Florida, Mexico (Yucatán), and Brazil. Morphological and molecular data support the sister-taxon relationship between L. pardalis and L. wiedii (margay). These sympatric species are hypothesized to have diverged 3 million years ago, and are part of an “ocelot” lineage that also includes L. geoffroyi (Geoffroy’s cat), L. tigrinus (tigrina), Oncifelis guigna (kodkod), and Lynchailurus colocolo (Pampas’ cat). This lineage was part of the “Great American Faunal Interchange” and its members migrated into South America via the Panamanian land bridge 3-5 million years ago.

Leopardus pardalis was one of six neotropical felids included in a study by Kiltie (1984) documenting body size (weight and length), bite force, and gape. Its relative maximum bite force (= 1395 +/- 240 mm2) and relative maximum gape (= 73 +/- 5.2 mm) were calculated utilizing measurements of the crania and the dentaries. The range of the relative maximum gape of L. pardalis does not overlap the ranges of Puma concolor (puma) and Panthera onca (jaguar), and the size ratios among these felids are constant. This suggests that L. pardalis may have evolved to specialize on prey of a particular size.

About the Species

This specimen, a male of the subspecies mearnsi, was collected in San Juan de Santa Cruz, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica in April of 1963. It 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 ocelot 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 Matthew Colbert on 03 May 2001 along the coronal axis for a total of 438 slices, each slice 0.233 mm thick, with an interslice spacing of 0.233 mm. The dataset displayed was reduced for optimal Web delivery from the original, much higher-resolution CT data.

About the


Berta, A., and L. G. Marshall. 1978. South American Carnivora. Fossilium Catalogus I: Animalia, pars 125. F. Westphal, editor. W. Junk b.v. Publishers, The Hague, Boston/London. 48 pp.

Campbell, L. 1995. Endangered and threatened animals of Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Endangered Resources Branch, Texas Parks and Wildlife Press. 130 pp.

De La Rosa, C. L., and C. C. Nocke. 2000. A guide to the carnivores of Central America. The University of Texas Press, Austin. 244 pp.

Eizirik, E., S. L. Bonatto, W. E. Johnson, P. G. Crenshaw, Jr., J. C. Vié, D. M. Brousset, S. J. O’Brien, F. M. Salzano. 1998. Phylogeographic patterns and evolution of the mitochondrial DNA control region in two neotropical cats. Journal of Molecular Evolution 47:613-624.

Hatt, T. R. 1953. The mammals. Pp. 45-77, in Faunal and archaeological researches in Yucatan caves. Cranbrook Institute Scienctific Bulletin 33:1-119.

Johnson, W. E., P. A. Dratch, J. S. Martenson, and S. J. O’Brien. 1996. Resolution of recent radiations within three evolutionary lineages of Felidae using mitochondrial restriction fragment length polymorphisim variation. Journal of Mammalian Evolution 3:97-120.

Johnson, W. E., and S. J. O’Brien. 1997. Phylogenetic reconstruction of the Felidae using 16S rRNA and NADH-5 mitochondrial genes. Journal of Molecular Evolution 44(Suppl 1):S98-S116.

Kiltie, R. A. 1984. Size ratios among sympatric neotropical cats. Oecologia (Berlin) 61:411-416.

Kurtén, B. 1965. The Pleistocene Felidae of Florida. Bulletin of the Florida State Museum 9:215-273.

Mattern, M. Y., and D. A. McLennan. 2000. Phylogeny and speciation of felids. Cladistics 16:232-253.

Murray, J. L., and G. L. Gardner. 1997. Leopardus pardalis. Mammalian Species 548:1-10.

Pecon-Slattery, J., W. E. Johnson, D. Goldman, and S. J. O’Brien. 1994. Phylogenetic reconstruction of South American felids defined by protein electrophoresis. Journal of Molecular Evolution 39:296-305.

Ray, C. E., S. J. Olsen, and H. J. Gut. 1963. Three mammals new to the Pleistocene fauna of Florida, and a reconsideration of five earlier records. Journal of Mammalogy 44:373-395.

Salles, L. O. 1992. Felid phylogenetics: extant taxa and skull morphology (Felidae, Aeluroidea). American Museum Novitates 3047:1-67.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1990. Listed cats of Texas and Arizona recovery plan (with emphasis on the ocelot). U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 131 pp.

Van Valkenburgh, B., J. Theodor, A. Friscia, and T. Rowe. 2001. Respiratory turbinates of carnivorans revealed by CT scans: a quantitative comparison. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 21:110A.

Werdelin, L. 1985. Small Pleistocene felines of North America. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 5:194-210.


Leopardus pardalis on the IUCN Cat Specialist Group website

Leopardus pardalis on The Animal Diversity Web (The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology)

Leopardus pardalis on The Mammals of Texas Online Edition

Wild Facts on Leopardus pardalis from the BBC Online website (includes audio)

Leopardus pardalis on Big Cats Online

See more images of Leopardus pardalis from Last Refuge Ltd.

& Links

Front page image.

Lycaon pictus

To cite this page: Dr. Pamela Owen, 2006, "Leopardus pardalis" (On-line), Digital Morphology. Accessed July 25, 2024 at http://digimorph.org/specimens/Leopardus_pardalis/male/.

©2002-20019 - UTCT/DigiMorph Funding by NSF