Big Cat Week: Day #4

Greetings everyone, today's big cat week post features the Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus). 

Females give birth to up to nine cubs after a gestation period of ninety to ninety-eight days, although the average litter size is three to five.
Habitat: Savannah and open dry grassland of most of Africa, Middle East to Turkestan 

Conservation status: Vulnerable
Population in the wild: ~7000 (

Population trend: Decreasing

Female cheetahs help their young by bringing back small of injured prey. The cubs can practice chasing and killing - developing skills they will need to perfect for independent.
Characteristics: The cheetah's chest is deep and its waist is narrow. The coarse, short fur of the cheetah is tan with round black spots measuring from 2-3 cm across, allowing it to blend easily into high dry grasses while hunting. There are no spots on its white underside, but the tail has spots, which merge to form four to six dark rings at the end. The tail usually ends in a bushy white tuft.
Cheetahs differ from typical big cats in several ways. Instead of stealth they use speed to run down their prey (gazelles or antelopes), assisted by blunt claws and other adaptations mentioned below. When looking at images of the magnificent cheetah, one might reassemble it's built to a racing dog, with a small head and long legs and body. The teeth and jaws of a cheetah are feeble to deliver an effective death bite, so the cheetah must bite the rear end of its prey and then bite its throat in order to suffocate its prey. 

60 second is the average time it takes for the cheetah to close in on its prey.

Cheetah's need for speed has generated an "arms race" over time, where hunting their prey has enabled it to evolve increasingly better morphological, physiological, and behavioral traits. Cheetahs and their prey (gazelles/antelopes) are evenly matched, and so success or failure is down to luck, surprise, or physical state. 
The cheetah is well adapted to hunting. Cheetahs require fast, brief bursts of speed to catch their prey. The following adaptations allow the fastest terrestrial animal to reach speeds in excess of 113kph (70mph). Firstly cheetahs have an extremely flexible spine, which coils and uncoils when the animal is striding,  helping the powerful hind legs to lengthen the stride of the animal at peak sprint. 
Secondly the cheetah's face is short and flat with the eyes arranged forward to give effective binocular vision. Additionally their eyes have an image-stabilization system to keep the prey in sharp focus when sprinting. 

The black line under each of a cheetah eye acts like an anti-glare device.

Cheetahs have large nasal passages and big lungs to allow effective cardio vascular performance. Their body has a low skeleton-to-muscle mass ratio with lighter bones and longer legs compared to other big cats. The long tail acts as a guide and allows the cheetah to achieve extremely tight turns when pursuing agile prey. 
It's shortish, blunt non-retractable claws give it permanent grip on the soil at high speeds. Closing in on prey such as a fleeing impala, a cheetah can put on an extra burst of speed over a couple of hundred meters. However cheetahs do become breathless within 30 seconds. So they must ensure they use their acute senses of hearing, sight and scent to stalk the prey and get as close as possible before chasing their prey. 

After the energy consuming effort of catching and killing a prey animal, would you blame them for resting for half an hour before starting to consume? 

Come back for Big Cat Week: Day #5 tomorrow!!

Over and out.

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