Females Put the “Cheat” in Cheetahs

Although male animals are better known for their promiscuity, new research shows that in cheetah relationships, it's the females that possess the wandering eye.

Posted: June 07, 2007, 5 a.m. EST

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In almost half of every litter of Cheetah cubs, multiple cheetah males were determined as fathers
A new study on cheetahs by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Zoological Society of London has found that many cheetah litters have more than one father.
Genetic material taken from stool samples showed that cubs from single litters were fathered by multiple males, according to a nine-year study conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Zoological Society of London at the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania.

“The picture that emerges is that of wide-ranging females mating with a number of males, which could be an advantage in terms of helping to maintain genetic diversity,” said Lead Author Dada Gottelli of the Zoological Society of London.

About 43 percent of the litters had more than one cub fathered by more than one male, the researchers said.

This is in opposition to other carnivore mating systems where single or sibling males mate with many females, researchers said.

“It seems that female cheetahs are highly promiscuous with no detectable mate fidelity between breeding seasons,” said Sarah Durant, a researcher with the Wildlife Conservation Society and Tanzania Cheetah Conservation Program. “In fact, we now know many of the fathers exist outside the park and study area.”

This finding is consistent with previous research that found female cheetahs occupy a home range averaging 833 square kilometers in size while males’ territory averages 37 square kilometers.

The study was published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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Females Put the “Cheat” in Cheetahs

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Reader Comments

Sheryl    Casa Grande, AZ

6/7/2007 11:48:26 AM

I understand that this can happen to domestic cats, too.

yinyin    ankeny, IA

6/7/2007 10:55:58 AM

it's so cool how they have more than one father!

Katlyn    Staunton, VA

6/7/2007 4:58:31 AM

As an avid admirer of cheetahs, this is very interesting and welcome news. The gene pool is diversified and well protected.

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