The Cheetah Anatomy Built for Speed

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"The Cheetah Anatomy Built for Speed"
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The cheetah is the worlds fastest and some say most beautiful land animal. The Cheetah is found primarily in Africa on the open savannas, but in the past its ranges have extended into India. The cheetah is the fastest mammal with a speed of up to 70 mph. The cheetah is considered as the most endangered big cat today.

The cheetah's anatomy is built for speed, it has long, slim, muscular legs, a small, rounded head set on a long neck, a flexible spine, a deep chest, special pads on its feet for traction and a long tail for balance. They have a long, fluid body which is streamlined over light bones and usually weigh between 110 to 140 pounds. Cheetahs breathing rates have a wide range, from 16 breaths a minute when it is lying or resting in the shade to 156 breaths a minute for when it has chased or caught its prey.

It is the fastest of all land animals and although its top speed is not known for sure, it can reach speeds of more than 105 kilometers per hour or 65 mph in short bursts up to 460 meters or 500 yards. It also has the ability to accelerate from 0 to 110 kilometers per hour or 70 mph in three seconds, which is faster than most supercars. They cannot maintain their top speed for a very long time and after a chase they need a considerable period of rest to recover.

Cheetah's can live for over 20 years but it loses its speed as it gets older, this restricts its ability to hunt and so shortens its lifespan. Another reason cheetah's give up the chase is due to the strain on its body of running at high speeds. The cheetah is built for speed and can accelerate from zero to 40 mph in three strides and to full speed of 70 mph in seconds, when nearing its full speed, the cheetah is running at about 3 strides per second.

The cheetah's long and muscular tail acts as a stabilizer or rudder for balance to counteract its body weight. This prevents it from rolling over and spinning out in quick, fast turns during a high-speed chase. The cheetah's paws have only semi-retractable claws and are the only claws of its type amongst the species of cat, they offer the cat extra grip in its high-speed pursuits. The cheetah's legs are slender just like its aerodynamic body, it has evolved only to keep the muscles it needs to hit such amazing speeds.

The cheetah's hunting technique has been highly adapted to suit its speed and agility, unlike many other wild cats it will hunt mainly by day. Once the prey is selected the cheetah will give chase and with its superior speed, more often than not succeed in bringing down its prey on the first attempt. Although the cheetah is fast, it can not sustain its high speed for more than a minute, that's why if the cheetah doesn't catch its prey early in the chase, it will give up.

More about this author: Cathy Linton

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