THE cheetah is a large feline inhabiting mostly in Africa.
It is a unique felid, with its closest living relatives being the puma and it is notable for modifications in the species’ paws, with only semi-retractable claws.
The cat is popularly known as the fastest animal on land, and has a body specifically built for reaching speeds of 120 kilometres per hour.
From 1965 when the first test of the fastest animal on earth was done, ever since the name cheetah stood out for speed and elegancy.
That made the feline from African Savannah to draw attention and interest from different kinds of people including athletes and scientists.
Over recent years, voices of sprinters using forbidden drugs to enhance their performance in the running tracks have been heard from all over the world including the renowned Olympic Games.
From biological point of view scientists believe that to achieve this, the feline’s body was created to perform some extra duties to carry, push, pull and quickly turn around without losing its asymmetric gaits.
This year the anticipated world championship for 100-metre showdown between two fastest men on Earth -the record holder from Jamaica and his rival from the USA- was put off after the race was overshadowed by doping scandals.
While sprinters go through many years of training to become world class athletics, Cheetah from Savannah who is the fastest jogger on Earth doesn’t use any prohibited substance to achieve a top speed of between 104 to 121 km per hour.
To understand what is behind this amazing ability let us have a look on mammals’ blood circulation system.
The circulatory system deals with transporting blood, nutrients and antibodies. This system includes blood, blood vessels and the heart. The heart pumps blood through the blood vessels to reach all parts of the body.
Scientists say their system is made up of different parts whereby each part of the circulatory system has a specific function to enable this system to function efficiently.
We need to understand that blood is a liquid tissue made up of plasma or fluid, red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Most of the blood is by more than 55 per cent made up of plasma.
Plasma is a blood fluid consisting of a large amount of water and other substances such as proteins, immunoglobulins and electrolytes. The main function of plasma is to receive antibodies and adjust body temperature.
Proteins present in the plasma prevent bleeding from the veins and clot the blood in the wound. Also, plasma contains antibodies that help the body to fight pathogens.
Red blood cells have a spherical shape with a convex centre. These cells carry a red compound called haemoglobin. This compound makes the blood red. Red blood cells are made in the bone marrow.
These cells last for four months and after that they are broken down by the liver to remove the particles it carries. The function of red blood cells is to transport oxygen and carbon dioxide gas in the body.
White cells do not have a specific shape and have the ability to change into different shapes. These cells are nucleated and are produced in the bone marrow and lymph glands. The main function of white blood cells is to protect the body by fighting pathogens.
Platelets are small non-nuclear blood cells, these cells have no specific shape and are made in the bone marrow.The function of platelets is to clot blood, especially in wounds.
The heart is an organ found in the chest and the main function of the heart is to pump blood from the heart to various parts of the body. The heart is divided into two sides ie right and left. Each side has two rooms, the upper room and the lower room, making a total of four rooms.
The names of those rooms are right atrium, left atrium, right ventricle and left ventricle. The upper part of the heart is wider than the lower part.
However, the lower chambers are known as ventricles and are larger than the upper chambers which are known as the atria. Among mammals between the atrium and the left ventricles there is a valve and the two other valves are located where the main arteries join the heart.
Although the heart of most mammals has four chambers, the heart of other animals is different. For example, the heart of an amphibian like a frog has three chambers. Both atria are found in the upper part of the heart while ventricles are found in the lower part of the heart.
When the ventricles are thicker than the walls of the atrium it is because these chambers pump blood to the lungs and body. The left ventricle is thicker than the right ventricle because the left ventricle pumps blood to different parts of the body while the right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs.
Scientists say the left atrium is connected to the pulmonary vein which receives oxygenated blood from the lungs and pumps it into the left ventricle. The right atrium is connected to the great vena cava which receives carbon dioxide-rich blood from the rest of the body and pumps it into the right ventricle.
Meanwhile, scientists say the cheetah of Serengeti eco systems run 50 per cent faster than any animal on land which makes them wonderful creatures to interest anyone watching their quick actions.
Adaptations that enable the cheetah to run as fast as it does include large nostrils that allow for increased oxygen intake, and an enlarged heart and lungs that work together to circulate oxygen efficiently.
In a flash of 30 seconds a physically fit cheetah will chase and capture its victim weather it’s an impala, small wildebeest or gazelle. To make it during a typical chase, its respiratory rate increases from 60 to 150 breaths per minute.
From the running tracks of the Olympic Games scientists want to compare the ability of Usain Bolt the fastest man on earth whose top speed is 44.7 km per hour.
This is attained after investing a lot of money in training which involves a team of medical experts and pacemakers.
In a project titled Cheetah robot, the Massachusetts robotics company known as Boston Dynamics, which is funded by the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), is working to develop a speedy robotic soldier to fight and kill people in any desert war.
Gill Pratt the project manager of Darpa says their aim is to give soldiers in battle field a proper assistant to overpower and kill their enemies by a flexible and fast moving mechanical combatant with a top speed of 121 km per hour.
This happens because the pulmonary artery carries carbon dioxide-rich blood away from the lungs. The main artery, the aorta, receives oxygenated blood from the left ventricle and sends it to various parts of the body.
Among mammals, the chambers of the heart are able to dilate and contract alternately. When the ventricles dilate, so do the atria. When the ventricles contract the atria dilate.The expansion and contraction of the ventricles and the contraction of the ventricles and atria are called heartbeats.
These pulses cause the blood to move from the heart, causing the heart to beat 70 times in one minute. This heartbeat enables the blood to circulate through the body without stopping. When the atria contract, the valve between the atrium and the ventricle opens, so blood is pushed from the atrium to the lower chambers called the ventricles.
When the ventricles contract, the valve between the atrium and the ventricle closes to prevent blood from flowing back into the atrium. Contraction of the left ventricle pumps blood to all parts of the body through the aorta. Likewise, the contraction of the right ventricle pushes blood to the lungs through the pulmonary artery.
The valves that separate the left ventricle from the right ventricular aorta and pulmonary artery close to prevent blood from flowing back into the ventricle.
The system depends on the presence of blood vessels which are specialised channels through which blood passes as it circulates in various parts of the body. These vessels are arteries, veins and capillaries.
This is to say the arteries transport oxygenated blood from the heart to various parts of the body except the pulmonary artery, the pulmonary artery carries carbon dioxide-rich blood from the right ventricle to the lungs.
Normally, arteries do not have valves. The pulmonary artery is the only artery with valves. The function of the valve in the pulmonary artery is to prevent blood from returning to the heart and thus having one direction. The main artery which is the aorta helps transport blood from the heart to various parts of the body.
There are veins which transport blood with a large amount of carbon dioxide gas except the pulmonary veins, the pulmonary vein transports oxygenated blood from the lungs to the heart.
All veins return blood to the heart. The blood has less impulse. Therefore, all veins have valves to prevent blood from flowing back. In addition, muscle contraction helps increase blood flow to the heart.
The circulatory system also uses capillaries which are tiny blood vessels that transport blood to every cell in the body, the capillary connects to the artery on one side and on the other side it connects to the vein. Capillaries are blood vessels with very thin walls and thus allow a solution to flow out.
This solution facilitates the penetration of the various needs of the cells and the antibodies produced by the cells. These needs are like water, food and oxygen gas. Cellular antibodies are like carbon dioxide, urea, saline and drug residues.
All these factors make the cheetah to be a unique animal in the whole of savannah. In Tanzania cheetahs are also available in Mkomazi national park of Kilimanjaro Region and Ruaha national park in Iringa.
Competition for hunting ground between Cheetah and other contenders like lions, African hunting dogs, hyena and leopard who together are forced to congregate in a dwindling Savannah of Africa.
It is during this time when most of cubs fall victims of hungry predators and scavengers like hyena, jackals and eagles.
To survive in the open Savannah with nowhere to hide a smart mother cheetah has to teach her cubs how to use special caves and rocks around it to put itself out of sight from all their enemies.
At the time of migration there is a scarcity of carcass in Savannah which forces scavengers like hyenas to fetch and get any prey available in their vicinity including a stupid baby cheetah who may wander out of its den.
In the middle of jungle communication between parts is done through signs and signals rather than words and action so by reading a swinging long tail of their mother baby cheetahs will stay back in hiding to wait a call from mama for a meal.
Getting a prey and to keep it are two different things in the jungle which is governed by the rule of survival for the fittest and death to weaker ones which put a milking mother cheetah into stiff competition with other super predators.
Many times after a hard work of chasing mother cheetah loses her meal to hyena, lion and greedy male cheetahs who track her through rotating vultures in the sky over the killing sight.
Unlike lions and African hunting dogs who stay and work together, cheetahs lead a lonely life so a milking mother will put a little effort to defend its prey knowing that by acquiring an injury at this moment means death to her and the kids too.
All these factors minimise chances of little beautiful cheetah cubs to grow up into maturity stage and breed other babies for future generation.
Any cub who manages to pass all these challenges must be smart in body and mind to learn all tactics and tricks to live in jungle full of every unforeseen catastrophe.
At younger stage a mother will teach her cubs how to hunt and kill by bringing a wounded prey and let them try to kill it by suffocation.
Then she will allow them to accompany her in a day long hunting exercise where they will learn how to crawl, chase by running very fast, killing by suffocation and taking the prey by dragging to a safer place out from intruders.
Few months after passing from this stage the mother will leave her cubs to start their new life while visiting them regularly to watch their progress as she works hard toward a new life.
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