A cheetah is a highly specialized animal to catch very fast prey such as gazelles and impala. They hunt by vision rather than scent which allows them to see what their hunting rather than waiting for the scent to reach them. This quickens reaction time. Their top speed is 50 mp\h and they do not have retractable claws.
A cheetah is specialized in various ways to make it faster. It has a very streamlined body, very large legs and a very high white muscle count. White muscles are the muscles that allow for very quick bursts of intense speed. They have high set eyes and small heads to reduce wind friction, helping their acceleration. Their claws dig into the ground to make it easier for them to accelerate and since they rely on their speed to stay away from danger they don't risk retractable claws. If a cheetah doesn't catch it's prey quickly enough it will stop the chase because when it's running it's body warms up so much that it could be life threatening.
They have a very low sperm count and quite a few males have infertility. One of the coolest things I've found is that a recessive gene from both parents will give a pattern of fur that's highly unusual. It is called the king cheetah and it's only been registered 34 times, mostly by furs.
Here's a picture of the king cheetah:
Edited: Danieltos on 24th Jul, 2009 - 3:58pm
Cheetahs' inner ear is one-of-a-kind, vital to high-speed hunting. The world's fastest land animal, the cheetah, is a successful hunter not only because it is quick, but also because it can hold an incredibly still gaze while pursuing prey. For the first time, researchers have investigated the cheetah's extraordinary sensory abilities by analyzing the speedy animal's inner ear, an organ that is essential for maintaining body balance and adapting head posture during movement in most vertebrates. Source 9c.
How cheetahs outsmart lions and hyenas. Cheetahs in the Serengeti National Park adopt different strategies while eating to deal with threats from top predators such as lions or hyenas. A new study shows that male cheetahs and single females eat their prey as quickly as possible. Mothers with cubs, on the other hand, watch out for possible threats while their young are eating in order to give them enough time to eat their fill. Source 1q.