Cheetah are unfaithful mates
May 30, 2007
Female cheetah are highly promiscuous reports a new study by Zoological Society of London (ZSL) scientists.
Working in the Serengeti of Tanzania, the researchers found that almost half of all litters were made up of cubs from different fathers.
“Before we started the DNA analysis, we thought it was possible that female cheetahs were choosing to be cheaters, but we were amazed by the level of infidelity that we uncovered,” said Dada Gottelli, ZSL’s lead scientist for the research. “The benefit to the females is that their offspring are more genetically diverse, which is important in an unpredictable environment such as the Serengeti.
Photo by Rob Roy.
Gottelli said there were risks from the promiscuity of females, including higher risk of sexually transmitted disease and increased vulnerability to predation since females travel large distances to find new mates.
Cheetah are listed as Vulnerable on IUCN’s Red List list of threatened species. The effective breeding population is estimated to be below 10,000 individuals due to habitat destruction and hunting.
The new study is published in journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.