Cougar running courtesy of Webweavers clipart    "The Phantom Cat"" Cougar running courtesy of Webweavers clipart

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   "So, what's so special about the cougar?"    

Cougars have many adaptations that make them such successful organisms in various aspects.  They have 4-chambered hearts that have two different circuits which is a characteristic that is also seen in humans (as well as other felid species): a pulmonary circuit and a systemic circuit. They are considered “warm-blooded” animals and have  three specialized vessels containing blood called veins, arteries, and capillaries. Therefore, they  have a closed circulatory system. The first benefit  of having an enclosed circulatory system is that there is enough pressure to
Photo used with permission from Savio DSilva

maintain a high flow rate throughout the body  so all tissues receive the required amount of oxygen that is needed.  Having good blood flow is essential, especially during exercise.  Another benefit of having a closed circulatory system is that blood can be shunted to specific vessels. This aids in absorbing nutrients throughout the intestines after a cougar takes in a meal.  One feature that is special to the cougar is that it has a special mechanism for warming its own blood.  This mechanism is a net of blood vessels in a cougar's neck and extremities and is called rete mirable or “miraculous net”.  Venous blood going to the heart is warmed by nearby arterial blood that is flowing away from the heart to ensure that the heart never receives cold blood that could be a shock to it.  Therefore, blood in the upper extremities, lower extremities, and the brain is always colder than the blood near the heart.  Cougars have sometimes been previously coined “cold-hearted killers” when in fact they should be really be called “cold-headed killers.”


Photo Courtesy of Howard Penn Cougars have thick fur that allows them to live in cold terrain because they do not have much of a fatty layer under their skin. Their tawny-colored, grayish or darkened fur coat allows them to blend in with their surroundings in mountainous areas. In tropical areas cougars tend to be more of a reddish color due to its brighter surroundings. Cougars spend long hours grooming their coat, and this essential for keeping warm and minimizing their scent to other cougars and prey.  Cougars are very good swimmers which allows them to exploit new habitats with relative ease.



Cougars have strong, shortened jaws and elongated, sharp canine teeth which allow them to capture and hold onto prey very tightly.  Cougar’s cheek teeth are also sharpened for shearing their food.  The skulls of cougars are drastically reinforced to withstand the great pressure they are faced with when forcefully taking prey with their mouths. They have very strong back legs for power and speed, but flexible front legs for steering and maneuvering captured prey.  A cougar’s powerful hind legs also allow it to jump higher than most other animals of its size, and this is why they are often spotted in relatively tall trees. This amazing ability to jump to high spaces allows them to escape predators if they feel they are in danger. Cougars often sleep in trees for protection.  Their retractable claws aid in climbing and capturing food.

Photo used with permission from Savio DSilva 
Photo used with permission from Savio DSilva

Like other cats, a cougar can crouch very low to hide in relatively tight spaces.
  Cougars hide so well that tracks in the mud or snow are the only hints of their existence that most humans ever see.  Similar to other cats, a cougar’s vision works best at detecting movement and allows them to see relatively well in a dark environment- this is why cougars tend only to move out in the open before dawn or at dusk.

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