Water Tiger

Aquatic saber-toothed CAT of South America.

Variant names: Aypa, Entzaeia-yawa (Shuar/Jivaroan), Maipolina, Mutant jaguar, Yaquaru.

Physical description: Size of a jaguar or slightly larger. Two large, protruding teeth. Fawn, yellowish, black, white, brown, or reddish unmarked coat. Bushy tail.

Behavior: Nocturnal. Attacks humans. Distribution: French Guiana; Colombia; Morona-Santiago Province, Ecuador; Amapa State, Brazil; Paraguay; southern Argentina.

Significant sightings: In the nineteenth century, William Bollaert found sculptured stones at Timana, Colombia, showing a cat with large teeth.

Manuel Palacio claimed that cave paintings in the Lago Posadas area, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina, depict a saber-toothed cat attacking an extinct long-necked animal with an elongated, tapirlike snout—possibly an odd-toed litoptern ungulate (genus Macrauchenia) that ultimately died out in the Pleistocene before the arrival of humans.

In the 1950s, a sailor named Picquet described to Peter Matthiessen a jaguar-sized cat

WATER TIGER 581

with large, protruding teeth that lived in the jungles of Colombia and Ecuador.

In 1975, a "mutant jaguar" with 12-inch fangs was shot in Paraguay. A zoologist named Juan Acavar examined it and suggested it might be a surviving Smilodon.

Juan Bautista Rivadeneira saw a Water tiger at the mouth of the Rio Jurumbaino, Ecuador, in 1989. It was black, with short legs and a cowlike tail.

Possible explanations:

(1) The Giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) is catlike, but it has distinct splotches of cream and brown on its throat.

(2) A surviving Saber-toothed cat (Smilodon spp.), a genus of large cats that lived in the late Pleistocene, 11,000 years ago. These animals averaged 4 feet long, had short tails and large heads, and huge canines in the upper jaw. Smilodon was the only saber-toothed carnivore that migrated to South America from the north.

(3) A surviving Marsupial saber-tooth (Thylacosmilus atrox), which had been in South America since the Miocene, 15 million years ago, and was displaced by the migrating saber-toothed cats. It was about the size of a jaguar and had a short tail and canines that were actually longer than Smilodon s. Its lower jaw had bony flanges where the upper fangs rested.

Sources: Charles Carter Blake, "Note on Stone Celts, from Chiriqui," Transactions of the Ethnological Society ofLondon, new ser., 2 (1863): 166-170; Patrick Chalmers, in The Field 180 (August 29, 1942): 228; Peter Matthiessen, The Cloud Forest (New York: Viking, 1961); Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia (New York: Summit, 1977), p. 72; Karl Shuker, Mystery Cats of the World (London: Robert Hale, 1989), pp. 197-205; Angel Morant Forés, "An Investigation into Some Unidentified Ecuadorian Mammals," October 1999, http://perso.wanadoo.fr/cryptozoo/ expeditions/ecuador_eng.htm.

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