Cheetahs are the fastest land animals. The only other animal whose speed is close to the cheetah is the gazelle, which incidentally is the cheetah's favorite food. So, the question why are cheetahs so fast could have something to do with the cheetah's favorite meal. If the cheetah was not fast enough to catch the gazelle, it would starve to death. However, the cheetah has evolved and adapted itself to run as fast as the gazelle, if not faster.
The cheetah can attain speeds of 70 miles per hour (112 kilometers per hour). This makes it lightening fast and allows it to hunt down the gazelle. (See Reference 1)
It is said that the cheetah is a good example of natural selection. It is extremely fast and has an aerodynamic body that allows it to run fast. Plus, its extremely long tail works as a rudder while it is running. There are many big cats in the wild, like the leopard, lion, jaguars, tigers and ocelots. However, none of these cats can match the cheetah's speed. Natural selection has ensured that the cheetah has the physical ability to run extremely fast. The cheetah has the necessary body design and behavior to ensure that it can survive in its environment, and the necessary genes for these are passed down to the cheetah's offsprings. (See Reference 1)
The cheetahs are so fast because of the following characteristics: (See Reference 1)
- It has a long and extremely streamlined body. This reduces the resistance to wind while it is running.
- It has long and powerful legs that enable it to take fewer strides to reach from one point to the next.
- In proportion to the cheetah's body, the head is pretty small and this reduces the resistance to wind and allows the cheetah to run fast.
- The extremely long tail works as a rudder that allows the cheetah to maintain its balance while altering direction when it is running fast.
- The cheetah has large lungs and heart which are enclosed in a large chest cavity. The large lungs ensure that a lot of oxygen is taken in, while the large heart ensures that the oxygen-rich blood is pumped to the required muscles when the cheetah is running. This physical adaptation allows the cheetah to maintain short bursts of speed.
All these anatomical features allow the cheetah to run fast and hunt down its prey. If the cheetah did not have these features, it would not be able to run fast, and it would have been like the other big cats.
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