APR 10, 2018 05:05 PM PDT

Nearby Threats Define a Wild Cheetah's Feeding Habits

Like many other opportunistic carnivores, wild cheetahs prowl around in the wilderness for prey and pounce on it when the time is right. But there could be more to cheetah feeding behavior than animal experts initially thought.

Cheetahs may eat their prey differently depending on their surroundings.

Image Credit: Pixabay

After analyzing 35 years’ worth of data encompassing cheetah hunting and feeding behavior at Serengeti National Park, researchers from Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources and Environment took note of some rather attention-grabbing patterns that may redefine our understanding of the creatures.

The findings have been published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology this week.

As it would seem, cheetahs pay close attention to their surroundings after snagging a fresh kill. But more importantly, the presence of larger carnivores, such as lions and hyenas, can have a direct impact on their eating habits.

Related: Meet the dog that's caring for five cheetah cubs

The results demonstrate how both male and single female cheetahs devour their prey as quickly as possible after a kill to mitigate the chance that a larger carnivore will walk up and steal the prey out from under them.

On the other hand, mothers with cubs take an entirely different approach; they sit out on the sidelines and keep a lookout while the cubs devour the prey.

Cheetah cubs can't eat as quickly as their fully-grown counterparts because their mouths aren't as big. That said, this behavior on the mother’s part protects the vulnerable cubs from larger predators during feeding and ensures that each one receives the food portion they need for survival.

"Instead of speed, mothers use vigilance to minimize risk," elaborated Anne Hilborn, the lead author of the study.

"They spend more time paused before eating, perhaps also to catch their breath, and are more vigilant. This increases the amount of time they spend eating, which in turn increases their overall handling time."

Related: Are cheetahs closer to extinction than initially thought?

The study certainly brings intriguing findings to the table, but it also raises new questions. For example, is this behavior unique to cheetahs at Serengeti National Park where lion and hyena populations are higher than elsewhere?

Perhaps future research could provide more insight, but it could be a while before a definitive answer materializes.

Source: Phys.org

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUL 02, 2018
Plants & Animals
JUL 02, 2018
Lemurs Can Detect the Weakest Link by Scent
While you might be able to tell if somebody else is injured merely by looking at them, it appears as though lemurs use an entirely different approach: the ...
JUL 10, 2018
Plants & Animals
JUL 10, 2018
Spiders May Use Electric Fields to Go 'Ballooning'
Spiders are known for having eight legs, but as it seems, these arthropods can sometimes fly using a technique known to the scientific community as ‘...
JUL 11, 2018
Plants & Animals
JUL 11, 2018
This Bull Changed the Dairy Industry Forever, But...
In 1962, a bull named ‘Chief’ revolutionized the dairy industry forever. The bull produced far more dairy than average, and industry leaders wa...
JUL 25, 2018
Earth & The Environment
JUL 25, 2018
Does location sharing hurt or help endangered species?
Does sharing the locations of rare and endangered species help or harm those species? That’s the question that scientists from the University of Sydn...
JUL 27, 2018
Plants & Animals
JUL 27, 2018
Orca Mother Still Mourning a Deceased Calf After Several Days
Given just how intelligent killer whales are believed to be, it shouldn’t come off as much of a surprise that they’re one of the few creatures...
SEP 20, 2018
Videos
SEP 20, 2018
A Plant 'Nervous System' is Found
Learn more about how plants communicate....
Loading Comments...