London, July 11 (ANI): Using high-speed cameras, a team of scientists is attempting to discover exactly what makes cheetahs the fastest running animals on the planet.
According to a report by BBC News, a Royal Veterinary College (RVC) team is using high-speed cameras and a sensitive track to monitor the big cats as they sprint.
The study is being carried out with North African cheetahs from ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in England.
Cheetahs can reach speeds of at least 104km/h (64mph) and they can achieve their top speed in just a few paces.
"The cheetah is fascinating because it can run 50 percent faster than any of the other animals we are familiar with, so in terms of understanding what limits how fast you can run, the cheetah is a wonderful animal to study," said professor Alan Wilson, head of the structure and motion laboratory at RVC.
Just as most domestic cats cannot resist chasing a piece of string, cheetahs also find the temptation of some twitching twine too difficult to ignore, especially if a tasty treat is dangling from the end.
So, the research team entices the zoo's cheetahs to run by attaching some choice chicken pieces to a loop of fast-moving string that is pulled along the enclosure by an electric motor.
As the cats chase the chicken feast, four high-speed cameras, which record at 1,000 frames per second, capture their every move.
"We use two cameras on each side of the enclosure so we can see the cheetah from both sides," said Penny Hudson, a PhD student at RVC.
"When a cheetah gallops, it does different things with either side of its body - it has an asymmetric gait," she added.
The scientists are also using special plates that are embedded within the cheetahs' running track.
"The plates are like sophisticated weighing scales that are able to measure all the forces going through their legs," Hudson explained.
The scientists are going to compare their results with other studies that have been carried out on greyhounds, which can reach top speeds of approximately 60km/h (40mph).
"Cheetahs can run much faster than a racing greyhound. So, we're trying to get them running at similar speeds to see what they do that's the same and what they do that makes them go that little bit faster," Hudson said.
The data from the experiments will be used to examine the forces and dynamics of the cats' legs, their speed, the length of each stride, as well as joint angles and posture. (ANI)