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. 2013 Sep 4;9(5):20130620.
doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0620. Print 2013 Oct 23.

Cheetahs, Acinonyx Jubatus, Balance Turn Capacity With Pace When Chasing Prey

Free PMC article

Cheetahs, Acinonyx Jubatus, Balance Turn Capacity With Pace When Chasing Prey

John W Wilson et al. Biol Lett. .
Free PMC article


Predator-prey interactions are fundamental in the evolution and structure of ecological communities. Our understanding, however, of the strategies used in pursuit and evasion remains limited. Here, we report on the hunting dynamics of the world's fastest land animal, the cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus. Using miniaturized data loggers, we recorded fine-scale movement, speed and acceleration of free-ranging cheetahs to measure how hunting dynamics relate to chasing different sized prey. Cheetahs attained hunting speeds of up to 18.94 m s(-1) and accelerated up to 7.5 m s(-2) with greatest angular velocities achieved during the terminal phase of the hunt. The interplay between forward and lateral acceleration during chases showed that the total forces involved in speed changes and turning were approximately constant over time but varied with prey type. Thus, rather than a simple maximum speed chase, cheetahs first accelerate to decrease the distance to their prey, before reducing speed 5-8 s from the end of the hunt, so as to facilitate rapid turns to match prey escape tactics, varying the precise strategy according to prey species. Predator and prey thus pit a fine balance of speed against manoeuvring capability in a race for survival.

Keywords: acceleration; energy; movement; predator; speed; turning.


Figure 1.
Figure 1.
(a) Mean VeDBA (g, 9.81 m s−2) and angular velocity (rad s−1) against time (n = 35, 30 Hz) during the last 15 s of cheetah chases. Error bars represent standard errors; (b) Speed (km h−1) against time (s) (n = 6, 1.0 Hz) across the last 15 s of cheetah chases for ostrich (O), steenbok (ST1, ST2 and ST3) and springbok (SP1 and SP2). Hunts O, ST2 and ST3 were successful.
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
Mean cumulative VeSBA (ΔS, g) of successful (solid lines) and unsuccessful (dashed lines) cheetah hunts against time (n = 35, 30 Hz) for (a) steenbok hunts for cheetah individuals A–E and (b) different prey species chased. Mean r2 of linear regressions was 97.4 ± 2.75%, Sx, Sy and Sz are orthogonal components of static acceleration.

Comment in

  • Do animals exercise to keep fit?
    Halsey LG. Halsey LG. J Anim Ecol. 2016 May;85(3):614-20. doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12488. Epub 2016 Jan 21. J Anim Ecol. 2016. PMID: 26791834

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