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Fastest Animal on Land: Cheetah
Aconyx jubatus

Cheetahs are, without a doubt, the fastest creatures in the world on land. (There's probably some wickedly fast creatures in the ocean that we still don't even know about). Why would a cheetah need to be able to run so fast? The only animal that comes in a close second to the Cheetah's amazing speed is its favorite prey, the gazelle. In order to catch up with a meal that's as swift as the wind, the cheetah had to develop the ability to run as fast, or faster than the gazelle, or face the alternative - starvation. Pretty strong motivation for practicing their wind sprints. These cats can run 70mph/112kph. Try to picture one running alongside your car the next time you're driving down the freeway! 

Cheetahs are Specialized Cats

cheetah running at top speedThe range of these fast casts isn't anywhere what it used to be. They are now found mostly in East Africa. They're also found in some places in the Middle East, in Iran, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and once upon a time in India. Cheetahs are an excellent example of the effects of natural selection on creating a super fast, aerodynamic hunting cat. There are several species of large cats in the world, including leopards, lions, jaguars, mountain lions, ocelots, and tigers, but none of them can match the speed of the cheetah. Natural selection works when those creatures having the best physical ability, body design, and behaviors to adapt to their environment and survive, where other creatures without those "cool features" will not survive to pass on their genes to another generation. There are many other large wild cats who look and behave very differently from the cheetah, but have adapted to survive in their environments in other ways. Look at the cool features;

· it has a long, super streamlined body with long, powerful legs - longer legs mean fewer strides from point A to point B

· the cheetah's head is small in proportion to its body (compare it to other large cats) - part of its aerodynamic styling for less resistance for greater speed

· the long, powerful tail helps the cheetah to maintain balance when changing direction at extremely high speeds

· did you know that cheetahs can "bark"? They make several different types of vocalizations, but they don't growl

· cheetahs have characteristic dark lines that look like "tears", believed to absorb glaring sunlight for better vision during the day

Although the Cheetah is one fast runner, he can only maintain that incredible velocity for about 200 to 300 yards/274 meters. These high speeds only allow the cat to overtake its prey within short distances, so cheetahs must still rely on stealth, sneaking, and the element of surprise to get close enough to the gazelle before giving chase.

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