As the fastest land animals this world has to offer, cheetahs have to remain balanced in order to not trip over their own legs. Researchers at the American Museum of Natural History have uncovered it’s a inner ear solution to their stability.
Findings published in Scientific Reports have revealed that the anatomy of the modern day cheetahs’ inner ear is markedly different from other felid (cat) species.
“The inner ear facilitates the cheetah’s remarkable ability to maintain visual and postural stability while running and capturing prey at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour. Until now, no one has investigated the inner ear’s role in this incredible hunting specialisation.” Says lead author Camille Grohé, in a press release.
Using the x-ray computed tomography to create detailed 3-D virtual images, researchers scanned 21 skulls of felid specimens including the cheetahs close relation the giant cheetah (Acinonyx pardinensis). Also more than a dozen living felids were scanned for comparison. The inner ear of vertebrates is their balance system. The study found that living cheetahs had a greater overall volume of the vestibular system and longer anterior and posterior semicircular canals.
“This distinctive inner ear anatomy reflects enhanced sensitivity and more rapid responses to head motions, explaining the cheetah’s extraordinary ability to maintain visual stability and to keep their gaze locked in on prey even during incredibly high-speed hunting,” said co-author John Flynn, the Frick Curator of Fossil Mammals in the Museum’s Division of Palaeontology, in a press release.
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