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Cheetahs of Tanzania marked by reduced gene pool

Ahh..the energetic and streamlined cheetah has to be a favorite of many a visitor to Tanzania. They only eat what they hunt and are found in the grasslands, savannas, and woodlands of Africa. The fastest land animal in the world, they are capable of running at top speeds of 70-75 mph. But it is their agility in combination with their speed that allows them to capture prey.

Two cheetahs in the Serengeti
Karin Leperi

While not endangered, cheetahs are nevertheless considered vulnerable and exhibit very little genetic variation. It is thought that during the last Ice Age they had somewhat of a bottleneck in their breeding. A population bottleneck results in a sharp reduction in the size of the population due to environmental events, effectively reducing variation in the gene pool. Also known as inbreeding, cheetahs are carefully being studied today since genetic variation is a key to evolution and ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

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