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Facts about Cheetah Adaptations : Camouflage Survival in the Savannah
The cheetah is an animal that belongs to the cat family. It once lived in large numbers in Africa and India but due to excessive hunting, there are no cheetahs left in India.
Though there are a good number left on the African continent, these are mostly confined in game parks and reserves.
The cheetah is the only member of the cat family whose claws are not retractable. The animal is not very big and weighs around 40-50 pounds. It has a yellow rough coat that is marked with round black spots.
The face of the cheetah has two black stripes that start from the inner corner of the eyes and run down to the corner of its lips.
Cheetahs can attain speeds of up to km/h due to their long and flexible feet. This makes them one of the fastest animals on earth.
The cheetah lives both alone and in groups and does its hunting during the day then sleeps at night. Due to the fact that the animal cannot run long distances, it has to catch its prey in the first few moments of the hunt.
They feed on young gazelles, zebras and hares and can go for up to ten days without drinking water.
The cheetah lives both alone and in groups. They hunt during the day and sleeps at night. He especially hunting antelope and if he does not catch its prey quickly, he left because he did not really long distances.
The gestation period of a cheetah is between 90 and 95 days and can give birth to a litter of up to five cubs. The mortality rate of cheetahs is very high and less than fifty percent of the cubs are expected to survive to the age of one year.
Cheetahs can live for up to 20 years – but this has been reduced due to poaching and genetic diseases due to low genetic variety.
Did You Know?
- There is only one species of cheetah left after the other species became extinct over 10,000 years ago
Why are Cheetahs so Interesting?
Cheetahs are the fastest animals on earth that can reach speeds of up to 70 miles/hour. A cheetah is a natural wonder that has been designed for speed, stealth and agility. The following are 14 interesting cheetah facts that you did not know about.
Fact 1: Cheetah Spots
Why do cheetahs have spots? The main reasons for cheetahs having spots is for camouflage. The patterns of spots is designed in such a way that it blends well with the surroundings. The cheetah needs to go as close as possible to its prey so that it can catch it by surprise and also to reduce the duration of the chase because cheetahs cannot sustain their high speed for long periods of time.
Fact 2: Cheetah Tear Marks
Why do cheetahs have tear marks? The tear marks serve to enhance the vision of the cheetahs by preventing glare of the bright tropical sun. Vision is a cheetah’s greatest asset because without its binocular vision, the cheetah would not be able to locate its prey in the vast African Savannah where it is normally found. The tear marks also enhance the camouflage effect mentioned above.
Fact 3: Cheetah Legs
Why do cheetahs have long legs: The cheetah’s legs are what contribute to its amazingly fast speed. The long, thin legs enable the animal to make very large strides as it runs which makes it attain its top speed of around 70 miles per hour. The design of the legs are in such a way that hind legs give the animal a forward motion in a spring-like manner. All the energy of the hind legs help to thrust the cheetah forward with an ever increasing acceleration towards its intended prey.
Fact 4: Cheetah Whiskers
Why do cheetahs have whiskers? The correct name for whiskers is ‘tactile hairs’. Just like any other member of the cat family, cheetahs use their whiskers to determine the width of an opening before passing through with their whole bodies.
Another use of the whiskers is to enable navigation in poor visibility by detecting the movement of air around objects. The whiskers are extremely sensitive and help the cheetah while hunting to detect even the slightest movement of its prey.
Fact 5: Cheetah Fur
Why do cheetahs have fur? The cheetah’s coat helps protect it from the harmful effects of extreme weather and also from pests. The fur on the cheetah helps to regulate the body temperature through cooling when it is hot outside, and for keeping warm when it is cold. The coat of fur is spotted with various patterns to help the animal blend with its surrounding when taking cover from its enemies and also when hunting.
Fact 6: Cheetah Heads
Why do cheetahs have small heads? Because the cheetah must move very fast, it has a lighter bone structure than other members of the cat family. This can be seen in its thin and long legs which assist them attain high speeds. The small head of the cheetah allows for better flow of air along the frame of its body so as to enhance its speed even more.
Fact 7: Cheetah Genetic Varation
Why do cheetahs have low genetic variation? Low genetic diversity in cheetahs is a problem that has been caused by inbreeding. This inbreeding is as a result of restriction of the cheetah’s habitat because of human activity and also due to the fact that there is only one species of cheetah.
The other species were wiped out by environmental conditions thousands of years ago. The inbreeding of cheetahs results in weaker offspring who are susceptible to diseases and also lack the ability to fight off enemies. This condition is very serious at the moment and threatens the very survival of the species.
Fact 8: Cheetah Food
What do cheetahs eat? The main diet of cheetahs is gazelles, impalas and deer. A cheetah will occasionalyl hunt rabbit, warthogs, hare, birds and other small animals depending on the availability of food in its environment. A cheetah will need time to catch its breath after killing its prey and normally stays for up to half an hour before consuming it. This is caused by the intensive exertion of energy during the short chase that leaves the cheetah completely exhausted.
Fact 9: Cheetah Reproduction
When do cheetahs mate? Probably due to their low survival rates, cheetahs will mate at anytime if the female does not have young to look after. In fact, if a cheetah female loses her litter to predators or diseases, she will quickly return to estrous so as to be able to replace them. When she is receptive, she will mate with many males in a ritual that will last for two to three days. The estrous cycle of a female cheetah is quite short and will last for about twelve days. The female will reach sexual maturity when she is about one year and two months old.
Fact 10: Cheetah Hunting
How do cheetahs catch their prey? Because cheetahs cannot run for a long period of time at their top speed, they must come very close to their prey so as to increase their chances of success during the hunt. They stealthily approach their target prey using their camouflage to disguise their presence.
Once the prey is in close proximity, they pursue them at high speed and if they are lucky, they go for the jugular which they bite until the animal suffocates. The success rate of a hunting excursion is about 10% for cheetahs and this is reduced further by other competitors such as lions, hyenas and jackals. Their inability to fight off these animals puts them at risk and they have to constantly hunt to stay alive.
Fact 11: Cheetah Communication
How do cheetahs communicate? Communication is usually through sounds such as purring, barking and chipping. These noises convey a diverse array of messages only understandable to the same species. The cheetah will also use sounds deceptively to lure game birds into their trap and eat them.
Sounds will vary depending on the message being conveyed. Their will sounds made to the young to warn them of danger or sounds made to other members of the species to keep off their territory. Communication is very important especially for the young cubs whose survival is dependent on the instructions they receive from their mother.
Fact 12: Cheetah Habitat
Where do cheetahs live? The habitat of cheetahs is mostly the vast Savannah of East, Central and Southern Africa, and in the Middle East in Iran. The populations and territories are very small due to the encroachment by human beings for development purposes.
Other Facts About Cheetahs
How do cheetahs protect themselves? Cheetahs are very shy animals and they would rather run from a fight than engage with their enemies. This is because the animals have weak jaws and small teeth that has been caused by defective genes due to inbreeding.
Have You Ever Seen a Cheetah?
Cheetahs Natural Enemies
What animals do cheetahs compete with? The main competition to cheetahs are lions, hyenas, leopards and jackals. These animals will kill the young of cheetahs just for the sake of it due to their natural enmity.