Ever wonder why it’s so hard to tell cheetahs apart? It’s because cheetahs are as genetically similar to each other as identical twins.
Though cheetahs have been around for millions of years, only one species of cheetah managed to survive a catastrophic climate change about ten thousand years ago. This resulted in a genetic bottleneck, forcing remaining cheetahs to breed with their relatives.
Though conventional wisdom about inbreeding suggests that the cheetah’s lack of genetic variety puts it at risk of extinction, the cheetah is the oldest of the big cats and has survived the longest.
Genetic bottlenecks only lead to extinction if harmful genes are passed on and become fixed in the population. The real reason cheetahs are endangered is because humans are destroying the cheetah’s natural habitat and eliminating its prey.
At the end of the nineteenth century, there were a hundred thousand cheetahs on earth. Now it’s estimated there are only nine to twelve thousand. Evolution just doesn’t work that fast. Odds are that if humans would stop interfering with their habitats, cheetahs would continue to survive.
So humans have to stop cheating the cheetahs or the results could be cat-astrophic!