Current address: Division of Surgery, School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonnington Campus, Loughborough LE12 5RD, UK.
Functional anatomy of the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) forelimb
Article first published online: 21 FEB 2011
© 2011 The Authors. Journal of Anatomy © 2011 Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland
Journal of Anatomy
Volume 218, Issue 4, pages 375–385, April 2011
How to Cite
Hudson, P. E., Corr, S. A., Payne-Davis, R. C., Clancy, S. N., Lane, E. and Wilson, A. M. (2011), Functional anatomy of the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) forelimb. Journal of Anatomy, 218: 375–385. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2011.01344.x
- Issue published online: 18 MAR 2011
- Article first published online: 21 FEB 2011
- Accepted for publication 11 January 2011
Despite the cheetah being the fastest living land mammal, we know remarkably little about how it attains such high top speeds (29 m s−1). Here we aim to describe and quantify the musculoskeletal anatomy of the cheetah forelimb and compare it to the racing greyhound, an animal of similar mass, but which can only attain a top speed of 17 m s−1. Measurements were made of muscle mass, fascicle length and moment arms, enabling calculations of muscle volume, physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA), and estimates of joint torques and rotational velocities. Bone lengths, masses and mid-shaft cross-sectional areas were also measured. Several species differences were observed and have been discussed, such as the long fibred serratus ventralis muscle in the cheetah, which we theorise may translate the scapula along the rib cage (as has been observed in domestic cats), thereby increasing the cheetah’s effective limb length. The cheetah’s proximal limb contained many large PCSA muscles with long moment arms, suggesting that this limb is resisting large ground reaction force joint torques and therefore is not functioning as a simple strut. Its structure may also reflect a need for control and stabilisation during the high-speed manoeuvring in hunting. The large digital flexors and extensors observed in the cheetah forelimb may be used to dig the digits into the ground, aiding with traction when galloping and manoeuvring.