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Flexible spine increases speed: cheetah


A cheetah in southern Namibia / Joachim Hube.. / LicenseCC-by-sa - Attribution Share Alike

The spine of the cheetah increases its running speed because its flexiblity allows longer stride lengths.

"They [plains predators] have effectively lengthened their limbs by making their spine extremely flexible. At full stretch, travelling at high speed, their hind and front legs overlap one another beneath the body just like those of a galloping antelope. The cheetah has a thin elongated body and is said to be the fastest runner on earth, capable of reaching speeds, in bursts, of over 110 kph. But this method is very energy-consuming. Great muscular effort is needed to keep the spine springing back and forth and the cheetah cannot maintain such speeds for more than a minute or so." (Attenborough 1979:264)
About the inspiring organism
Med_800pxacinonyx_jubatus_southern_namibia8 Cheetah
Acinonyx jubatus (Schreber, 1775)
Common name: Hunting leopard

Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: ITIS: The Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Threat Categories LONG_VU IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Ergonomic chair "spines", other flexible but connected supports.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Manufacturing

Attenborough, D. 1979. Life on earth. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company. 319 p.
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over 6 years ago
Spinal flexation has no relationship with increasing stride length for the cheetah at all. Cats are stalkers. And with that, the process of stalking is to bring their hips and shoulders as close to the ground as possible to avoid visual detection. The lower the body is to the ground, the further in front of them they can reach, which thus increases stride length capacity. How they're able to lower their body to the ground while othere quadrupeds can't is the biomechanic difference the author missed.
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