Deconstructing the Cheetah
I dare say this might be one of the most beautiful videos I’ve ever seen. Wow.
National Geographic teamed up with the Cincinnati Zoo and a Hollywood action movie crew in order to capture a sprinting cheetah at 1200 frames per second. The result is nothing short of magical.
Here is an animal that can run at nearly 70 mph, the fastest creature on land. It has evolved for two purposes: Speed and killing. Even at top speed, this video shows that its eyes remain locked on the target like laser beams, its head barely moves at all! So what is it that makes the cheetah the fastest animal on land?
A study published earlier this year by Harvard scientists discovered that an animal’s speed increases with body size, but only to a certain point. A gazelle is faster than a mouse, but also faster than an elephant. By studying a certain species of lizard that can vary quite greatly in size, these researchers realized that speed and the length of the gait increase with size until the weight of the animal forces the limbs to adjust their motion to support mass in order to not fall over. You can read about that study here.
The cheetah seems to have achieved nature’s optimal balance of size, running ability and weight. For land animals, at least, we could be looking at evolution’s pinnacle of beautiful speed. And it’s phenomenal to watch.