What Are the Structural Adaptations of a Cheetah?
With light slender bodies, long legs and a very flexible spine for maximum stride length, cheetahs are built for speed. They run on the tips of their toes, and their claws are only partially retractable, being used for traction rather than as weapons as with other cats. A cheetah’s adaptations make it the fastest animal on land, capable of reaching speeds near 70 miles per hour in only three seconds.
The cheetah is a specialized hunter of open plains, chasing down extremely fast small antelopes as its primary prey. When reaching top speeds, a cheetah’s body is under tremendous stress. Cheetahs use a huge amount of energy and their body temperatures increase dangerously. After making a kill, they must rest for an extended period of time before eating to cool down and allow their body processes to return to normal. This resting period combined with their light builds makes them vulnerable to more powerful predators in their environment that steal their kills.
Cheetahs lack the powerful jaws and enormous teeth of other big cats, relying on strangulation of prey rather than the penetration of major blood vessels or major nerve centers to kill. Because of habitat loss, human hunting and their general vulnerability to other predators, cheetahs are endangered throughout their range.