facebook
twitter
rss
account
search
search
 

Cheetahs found to use smarts as well as speed to capture prey

Sept. 5, 2013 at 6:54 PM   |   Comments

BELFAST, Northern Ireland, Sept. 5 (UPI) -- African cheetahs may use more than just speed and agility when hunting, researchers say; they may be anticipating the escape tactics of different types of prey.

Scientists from Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland, in collaboration with British and U.S. institutions, used GPS and accelerometer data loggers deployed on cheetahs, along with traditional observation methods, to understand more about the cats' hunting prowess.

"Our study found that whilst cheetahs are capable of running at exceptionally high speeds, the common adage that they simply 'outrun' their prey does not explain how they are able to capture more agile animals," Belfast biologist Michael Scantlebury said.

"Previous research has highlighted their incredible speed and acceleration and their ability to turn after escaping prey. We have now shown that hunt tactics are prey-specific."

Cheetah chases comprise two primary phases, the researchers found; a burst of speed to quickly catch up with prey, then a prey-specific slowing period, 5 to 8 seconds before the end of the chase, that enables the cheetah, which can hit 70-75 miles per hour, to match turns instigated by its targeted prey as the distance between them closes.

"In other words, we now know that rather than a simple maximum speed chase, cheetahs first accelerate towards their quarry before slowing down to mirror prey-specific escaping tactics," Scantlebury said.

Some prey species, such as ostriches, hares and steenbok antelope, attempt to escape by executing sudden changes in direction, while other species, such as wildebeest, gemsbok and springbok, attempt to run fast in a more or less straight line, the researchers said.

"One thing is certain, and that is that our previous concept of cheetah hunts being simple high-speed, straight-line dashes to catch prey is clearly wrong," Scantlebury said. "They engage in a complex duel of speed, acceleration, braking and rapid turns with ground rules that vary from prey to prey."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Most Popular
1
6,000-year-old temple discovered in prehistoric Ukraine settlement 6,000-year-old temple discovered in prehistoric Ukraine settlement
2
An ancient tsunami wrecked Hawaii; it could happen again An ancient tsunami wrecked Hawaii; it could happen again
3
NASA orbiter beams back images of Siding Spring comet NASA orbiter beams back images of Siding Spring comet
4
DC drone hobbyists in limbo over flying locations DC drone hobbyists in limbo over flying locations
5
Protestors object plans to build telescope on land sacred to native Hawaiians Protestors object plans to build telescope on land sacred to native Hawaiians
Trending News
Around the Web
x
Feedback