Cheetah: Fast by Design

The cheetah is immortalized in popular culture as the fastest land animals.  However, there is a lot more to the cheetah than pure speed. They are graceful, beautiful cats, with  a unique classification and a potential baraminological position change required.  These gorgeous cats demonstrate design in a myriad of ways which will be explored in this article.

Cheetahs were first discovered and classified back in 1775 and has been in genus Acinonyx since 1828. Currently, it is the sole occupant of the genus, with the name Acinonyx jubatus.  The genus name refers to the Cheetah being unique among cats in its inability to retract its claws. There are a few subspecies that have been proposed over the years but the cheetah is remarkably similar within the species.   Baraminologically the cheetah is placed with the rest of the cats in the Feline kind. However, some creationist baraminologists quietly suspect the cheetah might need its own baramin, a possibility I want to consider in the future.  Interestingly, however, there is a color morph of the species, referred to as the king cheetah, which has a trio of stripes running down its spine.

The characteristic pattern of a cheetah is its spots. It has nearly two thousand of them, though there is a color morph of the species, referred to as the king cheetah, which has a trio of stripes running down its spine.  They are most active during the day, with rare, scattered reports of activity at night.  Females are smaller than males and live a solitary life, except when mating or raising cubs. Males form territories, but will sometimes group together to rule more ground jointly.  When cheetahs meet, they do communicate freely, as they are one of the most vocal cats, exhibiting a wide range of sounds. They also groom one another.

Cheetahs are excellent predators. Because of their extreme speed, they can easily track down their prey. However, they are sprinters, not long-distance runners.  Many of their prey can sustain their pace over a much longer distance. Therefore, the cheetah has to be crafty in stalking its prey. It usually needs to get close, often by creeping through long grass, in order to get close enough to strike.

The cheetah is clearly designed for speed.  Scientists have discovered that cheetahs have the optimum body size to body mass, to leg size ratio that allows it to maximize its speed. Further, its nasal passages are enlarged, as are the heart and lungs. This allows the cheetah to rapidly exchange gases from the lungs to the bloodstream and back again.  In perhaps one of the most interesting twists of the cheetah, they use their spindly looking tail to steer at high speeds.

Female cheetahs can have a litter every seventeen to twenty months, unless their whole litter dies off, in which case they will be ready to mate again much more quickly.  They carry their young for three months before they are born and average three to five cubs in a litter, though they can have as many as eight.  Because the cubs are born with a strip of bluish hair running down their back, some scientists have suggested that the cheetah cubs look like the notably feisty honey badger, granting them a measure of protection against predation. If this is the case, it works very poorly as most cubs will not reach maturity.  It takes up to twenty months for cubs to leave their mother.  Males will live for ten years on average, while a female caps out around fifteen.

Interestingly, scientists have proposed that one of the reasons for cub mortality is the lack of genetic diversity among cheetahs.  It has been claimed that this lack of diversity is responsible for various birth defects among cheetahs, as well as low gamete production in males. This makes a certain amount of sense, particularly given the creationist model of speciation. If the cheetah speciated out from its original kind, then it would be expected to have lower diversity than its parent population.  Thus this low diversity meets creationist expectations.

The cheetah is a beautiful, graceful animal which exhibits numerous design characteristics. While it has undoubtedly speciated somewhat from its cat ancestor, it has adaptations which enable to thrive on the open savannas of Africa. These adaptations could not have come about by chance. The Creator built them into the cheetah’s ancestors from the beginning and, while they were not necessarily expressed, they persisted into the post-flood world where they were expressed in the ancestral cheetah.

 

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