When the researchers combined this information with field observations of cheetah kills and terrain information provided by Google Earth, they realized that the cheetahs were often hunting successfully amid thick vegetation by making sharp turns and sudden stops. “We have always thought of cheetahs as sprinters, but now it looks as though sprinting is only part of the story,” says Wilson.
“It is remarkable,” says evolutionary biologist David Carrier at the University of Utah. “Both agility and maneuverability turn out to be at least as important to these animals as speed.”
Anticipation of what Wilson’s collars might reveal in the future is growing fast. “I really wonder if cheetahs living on the open savannahs will yield the same sorts of results,” says Jack Grisham, coordinator of the cheetah species survival plan for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Carrier, meanwhile, hopes the collars will soon be used to study the movements of other animals in the wild. “Simultaneous recordings from each member of a pride of lions or a pack of wild dogs would prove fascinating,” he says.