For my vertebrate animal I chose the Cheetah. The Cheetahor Acinonyx Jubatus is an endangered species. They wereonce found throughout Africa and Asia, but are now onlyscattered throughout Eastern Africa and a small region ofSouthwestern Africa. Cheetahs are threatened by increasingloss of habitat, decline in prey, and increased poaching forfur trade. The Cheetah has a tawny coarse coat with roundblack spots or “tear stripes” from the corner of the eyesdown to the sides of the nose.
They are slender and longlegged, and their claws are non-retractable. They also havesmall heads with high set eyes and small ears. Cheetahsaverage 44 to 53 inches in length, with an additional taillength of 26 to 33 inches. The Cheetah’s average weight is86 to 143 pounds. Male Cheetahs are slightly larger thanfemales. The Cheetahs flexible spine, oversized liver,enlarged heart, slender muscular body, and unique clawsmake it the swiftest hunter in Africa, and the fastest animalon land. A Cheetah can reach speeds of up to 60 mph.
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Inthe grassy plains and dense bush females live alone, exceptwhen raising cubs. Males live alone or with a small group ofbrothers from the same litter. Cheetahs hunt in late morningand early evening. They stalk their prey first, until they arewithin 40 to 90 feet before the chase begins. Chases lastfrom twenty seconds to one minute, and only about half aresuccessful. If the Cheetah does catch its prey it suffocates itby biting it underneath the throat. Then the carcass isdragged of to a safe place to be eaten. Cheetahs prey onanimals such as Gazelles, Wildebeest calves, impala, andother hoofed animals weighing up to 88 pounds.
A Cheetahssexual maturity is reached in about 20 to 23 months. Matingcan occur any time of year. Gestation lasts 91 to 95 days.Litter size can be 1 to 8 cubs, but the average is 3. Cubs aresmokey gray in color with long wooly hair running along theirbacks. Cubs are moved around from one hiding place toanother every few days so they are not found by otheranimals.
One third of cubs survive to adulthood. Cubs staywith their mother for approximately one year. Cheetahs liveup to 12 years in captivity, and it is unknown how long theysurvive in the wild.