If asked which animal in the world was the fastest runner, most people would respond the cheetah. While it is well known that a cheetah is one of the fastest, if not the fastest running animal on the planet, the highly evolved biomechanisms that allow for 0-60mph acceleration in 3 seconds are sometimes overlooked. Basic anatomical adaptations include a small head for aerodynamics, large eyes facing frontward for focusing on prey, and enlarged nostrils for greater intake of oxygen. The slender legs allow for spring-like action that helps acceleration, and the slender build in general lets the cheetah sprint at top speeds of 70mph.
While these adaptations are physically visible, and surely important for the great sprinting capabilities of a cheetah, there are also internal, more intricate characteristics that are less obvious. The spine of a cheetah is very long, and extremely flexible. This allows spine flexion to provide elasticity and full extension during sprints. The legs of a cheetah are directly underneath its body allowing the scapula to rotate until the forelimbs and hindlimbs overlap. With these extreme adaptations, cheetahs can sprint at top speeds far higher than most of their prey, however they successfully catch their prey only 25-35% of the time. Why do you think such a fast animal often fails in pursuit of slower prey?
Posted by Steven Yu (C)