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Regional variation in the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) revisited: morphology of wild and captive populations

Citation

Meachen, Julie; Schmidt-Kuntzel, Anne; Marker, Laurie (2019), Regional variation in the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) revisited: morphology of wild and captive populations, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.95x69p8fg

Abstract

The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is listed as a vulnerable species by the IUCN, including two critically endangered subspecies, the Saharan cheetah, and the Iranian cheetah, so it is imperative that we understand variation in cheetah morphology to make good decisions regarding the conservation of this species. Here, we aim to determine whether northeastern African cheetahs have smaller body sizes than southern African cheetahs. This study also adds to our knowledge of cheetah morphology from two cheetah populations that do not yet have comprehensive published data: Kenya, and northeastern Africa, including captive individuals. We calculated means and standard deviations on cranial and body measurements of live or in few cases, freshly dead, cheetahs from the aforementioned populations, plus previously published data on Namibian and Botswanan cheetahs and compared them to one another using multivariate analysis of variance. Results show that northeastern African cheetahs have smaller body sizes than southern and eastern African populations. We also found that captive cheetahs retain the morphological characteristics of their ancestral population- captive cheetahs from southern Africa have similar body sizes to wild southern African cheetahs and larger body sizes than captives from northeastern Africa. Other analyses regarding cheetah growth agree with previous studies on Namibian and Botswanan cheetah populations rates. As such, this study can serve as a baseline for the care of captive cheetah populations to maintain healthy weights and body proportions.