Jaguar, Panthera onca
TAXONOMY & NOMENCLATURE
(Barry 1987) (Eizirik et al. 2001) (Hemmer et al 2001)(Johnson et al. 1997) (Johnson & O'Brien. 2006) (Larson 1997) (Oesch 1969)(Pocock 1939) (Seymour 1989)
(Turner 1997) (Wozencraft 2005)
Describer (Date): Linnaeus, 1758. Systema Naturae Per Regna Tria Naturae Secundum Classes, Ordines, Genera, Species, cum Characteribus, Differentiis Synonymis, Locis, 10th ed. Uppsala, L. Salvii, 1758.
Subfamily: Machairodontinae (extinct saber-toothed cats)
Subfamily: Felinae (cheetah, lynx, bobcat, caracal, puma, fishing cat, ocelot, margay, jaguarundi, serval, domestic cat)
Subfamily: Pantherinae (leopard, lion, tiger, jaguar, snow leopard, clouded leopard)
Species: Panthera onca - jaguar
Species: Panthera leo - lion
Species: Panthera pardus - leopard
Species: Panthera tigris - tiger
Species: Panthera unica - snow leopard
Genus: Neofelis neofelis - clouded leopard
Taxonomic History and Nomenclature
- Modern genetic studies suggest no justification for defining subspecies
- Eight traditional subspecies based on skull characters
- P. onca arizonensis ( Arizona jaguar/Arizona, New Mexico)
- P. o. centralis ( Central American jaguar/ El Salvador south to Columbia)
- P. o. goldmani (Goldman's jaguar/ Yucantan Peninsula south to Belize)
- P. o. paraguensis (Paraguay jaguar/ Matto Grosso in Brazil to northern Argentina and Paraguay)
- P. o. peruviana (Peruvian jaguar/coastal Peru)
- P. o. veraecrucis (Vera Cruz jaguar/eastern and southeastern Mexico to Texas)
- Common name:
- May be derived from yaguara ("any larger beast of prey") of Amazon natives
- In Spanish, el tigre, otorongo, tigre americano, tigre real, yaguar, yaguarete
- Scientific name:
- "Panthera" may be traced to Sanskrit for tiger, or "pundarikam"
which was then altered to a Greek-sounding word
- "onca" may be derived from Greek for "lynx"
- Modern felids arose in Asia around 10 million years ago.
- Genetic studies split all living cats into eight clusters of species with jaguars grouped with other Panthera. (Johnson et al 2005)
- Panthera genus
- Ocelot lineage
- Domestic cat lineage
- Puma group
- Lynx genus
- Leopard Cat group
- Caracal group
- Bay Cat group
- The clouded leopards (Neofelis neofelis) were first of the pantherine lineage to diverge.
- Earliest fossils of the Panthera genus dated at 3-4 million years ago from Tanzania (Barry 1987) (Turner 1997)
- Jaguars spread to North America from Asia via Beringia and are recorded in 850,000 to 1.5 million year-old sediments
- Panthera onca agusta is considered the immediate ancestor of modern jaguars
- Fossil sites in Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, and La Brea asphalt deposits, California
- Pleistocene jaguars were longer legged and larger than modern jaguars.
- Mitochondrial DNA study suggests a date only 280,000-510,000 years ago for the origins of modern jaguar (Panthera onca) lineages, mostly from northern South America founders.
- Mexico (and the southwestern U.S.) and Central America populations were presumed colonized from South America.
- A Pleistocene jaguar (P. gombaszoegensis) also found in England, Germany, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and England.
- Modern jaguars comprise four main groups based on genetics and geography; these groups are only partially isolated
and are not subspecies.
- This large, wide-ranging carnivore has characteristic genetic continuity throughout its existing range - the only such carnivore in the world. (Jaguar Corridor Initiative downloaded May 31 2010 http://www.panthera.org/jaguar_corridor.html)
DISTRIBUTION & HABITAT
(Channell et al. 2000) (Crawshaw et al 1991) (Nowell et al. 1996)
(IUCN 2000, 2006) (McCain et al., 2008) (Sanderson et al., 2002)
- Solitary habits, preferences for dense cover & wet habitats makes determination difficult.
- Historic range: between latitudes 35 degrees north and south - Southwestern U.S. to Rio Negro in southern Argentina.
- Has lost 37 % of historic range which was once 19.1 million sq. km. (7.3 million sq. miles) or twice the area of United States, including Alaska
- In 12% of jaguars' historic range, current status and distribution is unknown (especially in Mexico, Columbia, and Brazil)
- In general: southwestern U.S., Mexico, through Central America, into northern South America
- Much disagreement about importance of habitat for jaguars in southewestern U.S.
- Jaguar researcher Rabinowitz (2010) argues best way to help jaguars is to support efforts of governements and conservation groups in Mexico, Central and South America.
- Countries: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, United States and Venezuela.
- Now extinct in Chile, El Salvador and Uruguay
- Extirpated from most of Argentina, Costa Rica, and Panama
- Much smaller wet season home range in Brazil (only 20-30% of dry season territory above water)
- In Arizona (since 1996): photographs and tracks of four adult males and possible a fifth unidentified individual; scent marking behavior indicated residency
- A key question for assessment of jaguar current distribution: do they still occupy edges of historic ranges?
- Camera trapping: great potential for adding much new, more accurate population data
- Along rivers, around swamps and lagoons, in seasonally flooded wetlands; strong ties to water
- Dense lowland and montane tropical rain forests of South and Central America (good cover for stalking prey)
- Also adapts to:
- Succulent and thorn scrub, temperate broadleaf forests, tropical monsoon and dry forests, tropical savannah woodlands.
- Dry grassland terrains of Argentina's pampas, Mexico, arid southwestern United States
- Madrean evergreen woodland and semi desert scrub grasslands along U. S.- Mexico borderlands
- Altitudes up to 2,000 meters (6,500 ft.), although rarely at highest elevations
- One 13 year-old male: ranged from Sonoran lowland desert at 877 m (2877 ft.) elevation to pine-oak woodlands at 1,577 m (5174 ft.)
(Childs, 1998) (Hoogesteijn, et al. 1993; 1996) (Murie 1975) (Seymour 1989) (Turner 1997) (Wroe et al., 2004)
Body Weight: 57-113 kg (126-249 lb)
Body Length: 112-185 cm (44-73 in)
Tail Length: 45-75cm (18-30 in)
- Largest cat of Americas; resembles leopard but more robust body, deep chest, broader head, larger paws, shorter tail.
- Except for extinct sabertooth cat Smilodon and extinct Megantereon, jaguars perhaps most robust of all cats.
- For its body size, shortest forelimbs and hind limbs of all pantherine cats (similar to Smilodon)
- Heaviest cat that climbs well
- Surprisingly, circumference of massive head usually greater than height at shoulder
- Size variations over geographic range: smaller in equatorial regions and in dense forests, larger north and south
- Size also varies with size of typical prey
- Coloration and pattern of jaguar coat highly variable: pale yellow to tan to reddish yellow
- Whitish on the throat, belly, insides of limbs
- All ages spotted; young have the adult pattern by 7 months.
- "Butterfly" patterned animals: circular black markings in rosettes enclosing one or more small spots; other individuals: smaller rosettes with or without spots
- Tail white underneath; two or three black rings, ending in black tip
- Melanistic individuals: spots barely visible against dark fur; melanism allele is dominant.
- Melanism more common than in other large cats, except for leopards; term "black panther" applies to melanistic jaguars but also black leopards and pumas
- Distinguished from smaller leopard of Africa and Asia (Panthera pardus) which has only spots, no rosettes
- Distinguished from larger Asiatic tiger (Panthera tigris) which has stripes.
- Females usually 10 to 20% smaller than males.
- Males and older individuals: midline ridge of thickened bone on skull (sagittal crest)
Other Physical Characteristics
- Round pupil, iris color of golden to reddish yellow
- Relatively larger lower canines than other pantherines
- More powerful bite than that of other big cats
- Retractile claw on each digit
- Tracks distinguished from puma (which are found within jaguar territories):
- heel pad larger, wider, more rounded w/o pronounced lobes at base
- heel pad extends forward to base of toes (compact, "filled in" appearance)
- toes proportionally larger, more rounded
- front limbs: broad straddle, hind limbs: narrower straddle, fall inside front feet on overstep
|jaguar : 4 3/4 in. wide
||puma : 3 1/2 in. wide
BEHAVIOR & ECOLOGY
(Azevedo & Murray 2007) (Emmons 1991) (Farrell & Sunquist 2000) (Harmsen et al 2009) (Maffei et al. 2004) (Mondolfi & Hoogesteijn 1986)
(Rabinowitz & Nottingham 1986) (Scognamillo et al. 2003) (Seymour 1989) (Soares et al. 2006) (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)
- Many unknowns for researchers regarding behavior in the wild
- Information gathered by indirect means from collared cats, scats, tracks, observation of kills
- Solitary except when mating or when females care for young; courting pair may travel and feed together
- Young litter mates may travel together
- Young males nomadic until establishing a home range
- Hunt and play in water, even more often than tigers
- Most often seen by humans when resting on tree limbs over water
- Hunt primarily at night, but active in day also; pattern varies considerably with prey abundance and activity and local human activity.
- One female individual studied:
- rested after midnight (0030 to 0300) and late morning (0930 to 1200)
- traveled before dawn (0330 to 0600) and at dusk
- Preference for dense habitats makes monitoring of territories difficult for researchers
- 2 to 5 sq. km (.8 to 1.9 sq. mi) in Mexico to 390 sq. km (150.6 sq. mi) ( Brazil)
- 65 sq. km. (25.1 sq. mi) for males; up to 29 sq. km (11.2 sq. mi) for females in Kaa-Iya del Gran Chaco's reserve of Bolivia & Paraguay
- 33.4 sq. km (12.9 sq. mi) for males in wet tropical forests: Belize
- 142.25 sq. km (54.8 sq. mi) in wet grassland and woodland: Pantanal of Brazil
- Over 1,359 sq. km (524.7 sq. mi) for one adult male: Arizona
- Comparable for males and females
- Determined by prey characteristics, jaguar's body size, seasonal land variations (wet season may be underwater)
- Use a "land tenure" system
- first in an area claims the area
- when "owner" dies, ranges of others adjust
- same system used by tigers, leopards, pumas
- Spacing patterns based on regions of exclusive use within a home range
- Both males' and females' ranges may overlap
not often in their "core" area
- Recent studies in Brazil: males do not show strong aggression or territorial defense against other jaguars
- Scent marking (backward urine-spraying, cheek-rubbing, claw-raking) observed in an Arizona jaguar
suggest the individual was in its territory
(2004 to 2007 observations)
- Ritual fighting by young captive jaguars include "threat and attack" and "neck snapping"
- Females avoid all males when caring for cubs
- Genetic studies indicate under certain conditions, young may be killed by their own sires
- Females play with cubs
- Cubs play together, often in water; when emerging from water, shake each paw separately
- Young have adult vocalizations by one year (except for calls used in reproductive behavior).
- Most commonly noted sound: "grunt" or "snore" similar to a hoarse barking cough of uh uh uh uh (both male and female); for long distance communication and home range maintenance
- Male grunts more resounding and stronger than females'
- Females' call becomes louder when in estrus
- Lower pitched roaring produced by shift downwards of larynx (lengthening the vocal tract) as animal ages. Other animals whose larynx changes position with development include humans and red deer.
- Series of low-intensity, short snorts called prusten or chuffings; are also heard in tigers, snow leopards and clouded leopards.
- Jaguars develop adult structured calls without learning from other jaguars
- Scraping the ground with hind paws, urination , scent and feces marking, tree raking, and head rubbing may function as territory markers or
simply in communication.
- Strides about 50 cm.(19.7 in) long, made with tail carried upwards
- Travel frequently via watercourses; swim from one forested island to another during flood season
- Tire quickly at top speed; typical sequence: walking then breaking into a full charge for 7 to 30 meters (23 to 98 feet)
- Don't capture prey by much running; prefer to ambush and quickly dispatch their prey.
- Swim with head and spine out of water; in Amazon Basin rarely venture more than .5 km (.3 miles)
- Can climb well and known to eat forest canopy species such as spider monkeys; not known if jaguars climb to reach them
- Pumas and jaguars coexist within overlapping territories but tend to specialize in different size prey (jaguars in large, pumas, medium-sized)
- Both jaguar and puma intensively use prey-rich transition zones between forest and savanna habitats (eco tones); pumas may prefer drier microhabitats
- Extensive camera-trap surveys of jaguar and puma populations in Coxcomb Basin in Belize revealed that both species used the same environment and had the same set of activites but managed to interact little with each by not using areas at the same time of day. (Harmsen et all 2009)
- Pumas and jaguars may avoid conflict by selection of small patches of preferred territory yet do compete for the same prey species, according to scat studies
- Anecdotal accounts of attacks by jaguar on pumas and ocelots, but no reports of attacks on people in the wild.
- Jaguars may attack domestic cattle less if more aggressive water buffalo are kept with the other cattle. (Hoogesteijn & Hoogesteijn 2008)
DIET & FEEDING
(Azevedo & Murray 2007) (Crawshaw & Quigley 1991) (Emmons 1991)
(Mondolfi & Hoogesteijn 1986) (Polisar et al 2003) (Seymour 1989) (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)
- Hunt by stalking and ambush
- Prefer larger prey species and typically make kills in core area territory
- Kill with neck bite as do lions, tigers, and leopards
- Kill by canines piercing prey's skull (only large cat to use this technique)
- With small prey, use paw for single blow to head
- Drag prey to suitable cover by straddling it with forelegs
- May drag kill over great distances through difficult terrain
- Tend to consume large mammals front end first; eat heart, liver, spleen, but not intestines
- Do not hide killed prey as do tigers
- Two reports and folk legends claim jaguars use their tail to attract fish to water's surface
- Records of attacks on humans rare; least likely of all big cats to attack humans
- Some 85 prey species reported; most common are terrestrial mammals:
- Preferences for
capybara, marsh deer, giant anteater, and red broket deer
- Also tapir, marsh deer, peccary, armadillo
- Besides mammals, caiman (alligator), fish, turtles, iguana, anaconda, birds
- Only large cat with a decided taste for reptiles
- Whole turtles and tortoises may be eaten
- Larger turtle and tortoise shells broken with teeth or a paw is inserted between top (carapace) and bottom (plastron) and turtle's insides scooped out (without breaking the shell)
- Caimen are killed by a crushing bite to neck
- Compete with humans for edible turtles
- May occasionally take larger prey such as cattle; studies suggest these jaguars often have gunshot wounds
- Estimates from wild jaguars feeding habits: 1.2 to 1.5 kg (2.6 to 3.3 lb) per day for a 34 kg (74.8 lb) animal
- Larger bodied jaguars in Pantanal of Brazil require more food (and larger home ranges) than smaller jaguars elsewhere
- Jaguars preyed on large grazers in the Pleistocene Epoch; feeding on cattle today may be their response to introduced equivalents of large prey that went extinct in North America 11,00O years ago (Polisar et al 2003)
REPRODUCTION & DEVELOPMENT
(Hoogesteijn & Mondolfi 1993) (Quigley & Crawshaw 2001) (Seymour 1989)
(Slaughter et al. 1974) (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002) (Weigl 2005)
- Estrus duration about 12 days; cycle repeats about 47 days
± 5 days
- Females in estrus travel widely, roaring for a mate;
- Several males may follow female
- Males rarely fight over females
- Males and females do not stay together after mating but may travel and feed together during courting
- During mating female growls and male licks the nape of her neck
- Copulation is rapid and frequent (noted in captivity)
- Ovulation is mating induced
Infant (< 1 year old)
- In tropical area and in captivity, births occur throughout the year
but more often during the rainy season (when prey abundant)
- In temperate climates births may occur more in summer months
- Weight at birth: about 800 g ( 1.7 lb.)
- Up to four cubs born; two most common
- Cubs hid in dense cover, in dens, caves, under an uprooted tree, or under bank of a river
- Eyes open after about 8 days
- Cubs walk after about 18 days
- Cubs take meat at about 10 to 11 weeks but continue to suckle until 5 to 6 months
- Cubs begin to follow mother at about 6 weeks but may remain in den for 2 months
- Cubs leave mother around 1.5 years, may maintain social bonds until 2 or more years
- Sexual maturity occurs in females around 2 to 3 years; males mature between 3 and 4 years.
- Development stages judged by permanent teeth: erupt in the same sequence as other felids
- In the wild unknown; estimated from observations in Belize around 11 years.
- In captivity 20 to 27 years
- Hunting by humans, plus competition with humans for food and living space; some researchers suggest competition with humans is the primary cause
- Other causes: wounds inflicted by prey species, especially group living species such as capybara and javalina
DISEASES AND PATHOLOGY
(Camus et al 2004) (Choi et al. 2002) (Hope & Deem 2006) (Kolmstetter et al. 2000)
(McAloose et al. 2007) (Patton et al. 1986) (Seymour 1989)
Diseases in captive jaguars
- Degenerative spinal disease
- Symptoms include progressively decreased activity and appetite, rear limb muscle atrophy, impaired and uncoordinated movement, unnatural curvature of spine (spondylosis)
- Age onset of symptoms - 10-19 years
- Pathologies include mineralization or herniation of discs, collapsed discs
- Lumbar vertebrae most commonly affected, but also cervical and thoracic
- Pyhium insidiosum (fungal-like organism) lung infection
- Symptoms: shortness of breath, raised white blood cell count
- Pathology includes fibrous growth in lung tissue
- Morganelliasis pneumonia
(family Enterobacteriaceae; gram negative)
- Symptoms: anorexia, depression, respiratory difficulty in six yr. old male
- Pathogen isolated: culture of lung, spleen, and heart blood
- Exact source and mode of infection unknown
- Dental disease very common
- Chewing on cage bars promotes tooth fractures
- More prevalent in older individuals
- Gastrointestinal disease common
- Peritonitis and gastroenteritis increase with age
- Skin diseases common, often secondary to stress, behavior issues
- Include footpad dermatitis, abscesses, trauma from cage mates, and self-trauma
- Inflamed tail lesions due to tail sucking found in all ages
- Reproductive disorders in sixty percent of females exposed to melengestrol-acetate (MGA, a progestogen-like compound used as a contraceptive for felids and also used as a growth promoter in cattle)
- Stillbirths or unexplained deaths, trauma, and pneumonia account for most mortality in unborn and very very young individuals
- Nosebleeds in young and old individuals; ingrown toenails in old individuals
- Various tumors, anthrax, pox virus, diabetes, and renal failure
- Parasites include:
- internal: protozoans, trematode lung flukes, tapeworms, trypanosome, hookworms, nematodes, whipworms, acanthocephalans (spiny-headed worms)
- external: screwworms, warble fly larvae, the fungus trichophyton
Diseases in wild jaguars
- Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) in neotropics
- Parasites from fecal samples in Belize jaguars include: hookworm eggs, hookworms (Ancylostoma tubaeforme and Ancylostoma pleuridentatum), spiny-headed worms (Oncicola oncicola), tapeworm eggs (Diphyllobothrium), tapeworm (Taenia macrocystis and Echinococcus oligarthrus) and lung flukes (Paragonimus), roundworms (Capillaria).
(Hemmer 1968) (Hsu 1962) (Pocock a & b 1908) (Seymour 1989)
- Crossed and backcrossed successfully with leopards (jaguar karyotype almost identical to leopard's)
- Female hybrids with leopards fertile;
male hybrid's fertility unrecorded
- Hybrid of male leopard and female jaguar: a leguar
- Many leguar's bred as animal actors (more easily trained than jaguars)
- Hybrid of leopard and jaguar, irrespective of which parent is which sex: a lepjag
- Hybrid of female leopard and male jaguar: a jagupard.
- One jagupard bred at Hellbrun Zoo, Salzburg, Austria
- Hybrid of male jaguar and female lion: a jaglion
- By accident, jaguar and lion mated producing two jaglions in 2006 at
Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, Ontario, Canada; one cub spotted, one melanistic
- A famous lepjag/lion cross in 1908 resulted in an animal referred to as a Congolese Spotted Lion
- Zoos today focus on conservation of pure species rather than deliberate breeding of hybrids
POPULATION AND CONSERVATION STATUS
(Abbitt et al. 2000) (Channell & Lomolino 2000) (Leite et al. 2001)
(Nielsen et al. 2001) (Sanderson et al. 2007) (Soisalo, M. and S. Cavalcanti 2006)
- All countries in the range of the jaguar are members of CITES
- Populations estimated:
- Guatemala: 465-550 animals in 15,000 sq. km. (9,000 sq. mi.) of Maya Biosphere Reserve (Aranda 1992)
- Belize: 600 to 1,000 (Rabinowitz 1991)
- Mexico: 125-180 jaguars in 4,0000 sq. km (2,400 sq. mi.) of Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and perhaps 350 individuals in Chiapas, Mexico (Aranda 1992)
- Brazilian Pantanal: 3,500 (Almeida 1990); 1,000 to 1,500 (Quigley and Crawshaw 1992)
- Population density estimates (Soisalo and Cavalcanti 2006) :
- Camera-trapping and capture-recapture with GPS assistance
yield population estimates lower than traditional methods in Brazilian wetlands of Mato Grosso
- 2003: 6.6 jaguars/100 sq.km
(38.6 sq. miles) vs traditional estimate of 10.3 jaguars/100 sq. km (38.6 sq. miles)
- 2004: 6.7 jaguars/100 sq. km vs traditional estimate of 11.7 jaguars/100 sq. km
- Hunting prohibited in Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, French Guiana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Hunting restrictions in Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru
- No legal protection in Ecuador or Guyana (IUCN 2000)
- Extinct in El Salvador and Uruguay.
- No evidence of a breeding population in U.S. since early 1900's.
1986: Conservation area established specifically for jaguar in Belize
1982: Vulnerable IUCN
1990: Vulnerable IUCN
1996: Lower Risk/Near Threatened IUCN
1997: US Fish and Wildlife Service added U.S. to area where this species is listed as Endangered (Federal Register)
1997: Mesoamerica Biological Corridor officially launched to balance human needs, sustainable development, and conservation of some of earth's greatest biodiversity.
2002: Forty six jaguar conservation units established in Central America
2006. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided not "prudent" to designate critical habitat for jaguar; this decision based on fact that in the U.S. no geographic area has features the species needs to survive; preservation and recovery of the jaguar depends almost entirely on conservation efforts in Mexico and Central and South America. (USFWS July 13, 2006)
2006: Environmental ministers from seven countries of Central Mexico and Mexico agree to support a network of protected areas and wildlife corridors to protect jaguar populations; meeting of Second Mesoameria Protected Area Congress in Panama, May 2006.
2008: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determines a U.S. plan would not "advance the conservation of the big cat" because there are "too few jaguars and too little habitat" to influence protection of jaguar populations. (USFWS Jan. 17, 2008)
2010: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reverses policy (Jan. 2010) and says it will now designate "critical habitat" for the endangered jaguar in the U.S. Much disagreement on this issue; some biologists (Rabinowitz 2010) assert bringing back jaguars into "marginal" habitat will waste sparse federal funds that will do nothing to help jaguars in their true critical habitats in Mexico, Central and South America. See map of current and historic jaguar ranges on the Panthera website [PDF]
ISIS captive population
- IUCN Status:
Near Threatened (Version 3.1)
assessed 2008. Red List of Threatened Species
- CITES Status:
Appendix I Species (all international trade in jaguars or their parts is prohibited);
listed in 1973
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Endangered; Jaguar Recovery Plan abandoned January, 2008 (first time in 34 years such a plan abandoned), then reinstated Jan. 2010.
- USESA Status: LELE: listed endangered
Threats to survival
- Fragmentation of habitat needed by this large, mobile species
- Deforestation; conversion of habitat to agriculture, human settlement, cattle ranching
- Agrichemicals in farmed regions
- Illegal jaguar control by ranchers and others; indiscriminate hunting
- Competition with humans for same sources of protein
- Trophy hunting in Bolivia; no legal protection in Ecuador or Guyana
- Black market for pelts
- In United States, the borderland fence between United States and Mexico
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