The big cat's large inner ear helps it keep its eyes locked on prey even when sprinting, a new study finds.
Cheetahs are synonymous with speed. But past the big cat's slender build and lean muscles, there's something inside that aids this animal's need for speed.
A new report, published February 2 in Scientific Reports, shows that certain parts of the cheetah's inner ear help to make it a better hunter. The study marks the first time researchers have analyzed the big cats' inner ear.
If you watch a cheetah sprinting in slow motion, you can see that they tend to keep their heads stable and their eyes fixed on prey even while in motion. To learn how the animal's bone structure helps with this, lead author Camille Grohé turned to the animals' inner ear.
The inner ear is crucial for maintaining balance and a steady head posture. It consists of three semicircular canals containing fluid and sensory hair cells that pick up motion in the head. Since each canal is angled differently, they're each sensitive to different movements: one targets up-and-down motion, one side-to-side, and one tilts from one side to the other.