Science  14 Jun 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6138, pp. 1271

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  1. Agility, Not Speed, Puts Cheetahs Ahead


    Sensors capture the cheetah's speed and agility.


    The fastest land animal on Earth depends on more than speed to catch its prey; instead, much of the cheetah's hunting success comes from its ability to slow down and turn quickly. Using a radio collar equipped with GPS, accelerometers, and other devices that could relay a cheetah's position, velocity, and direction 300 times each second, biomechanist Alan Wilson from the Royal Veterinary College in London and his colleagues tracked the movements of five wild cheetahs in Botswana, recording 367 hunting runs in 18 months. Cheetahs have four times the muscle power—and acceleration—of humans, can slow down by 4 meters per second in a single stride, and can successfully hunt in densely wooded areas as well as in open grasslands, the team reported this week in Nature. The collars are "a big step forward in terms of understanding what animals do in the real world," says David Carrier, a comparative biomechanist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.