London: Japanese researchers claim to have unlocked the mystery behind the cheetah’s amazing speed by mapping the muscles fibres of the big cat.
By comparing the cheetah’s muscles with those of a domestic cat and dog, the team identified the special propulsion power of its hindlimb muscles, the BBC reported.
The study is the first to investigate muscle fibre distribution across the whole of the cheetah`s body.
They examined how the muscle fibres of domestic cats and dogs compare with those of the world’s fastest land mammal.
“The study of muscles is indispensable to understand the cheetah’s run,” Dr Naomi Wada, the study’s co-author and Professor in System Physiology at Yamaguchi University in Japan, said.
Dr Wada said that different types of muscle fibre are suited to different activities.
In all the animals studied, so-called Type I fibres produced a small force output but were resistant to fatigue, making them best suited to maintaining posture and slow walking.
Type IIa fibre performance was best suited to fast walking and trotting whereas Type IIx or “fast” fibres created a high force output, but had low endurance and were key to fast running or galloping.
The team’s results suggested that the power comes from the cheetah’s hind legs, in the same way as a rear wheel-drive car.
The findings are published in the journal Mammalian Biology.