Brave Queen’s University researchers have examined behaviour between predator and prey in the wild.
They began with the basic understanding that most of the time the bigger the animal, the faster they run. However, it turns out smaller animals have an advantage too.
The study showed that big animals exert greater forces when turning and have relatively less power to do this in comparison to smaller animals, which can turn quicker and easier.
Obviously, the only way to test this was to tag accelerators to the fastest land mammal – which if you haven’t guessed by this point is the cheetah – and see how they deal with prey of different sizes.
These cheetahs chased anything and everything from small hares to ostriches (which can actually run really fast). However, when pursing the smaller prey the cheetahs turned more often and more sharply, probably following the path of the prey.
Dr Scantlebury from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University said: “This truly shows how both predators and prey are involved in an evolutionary arms race important for each of their own survival – to catch dinner or avoid being eaten.
“Predator chases are governed by fundamental principles, which include not being able to turn abruptly if you are travelling fast, or indeed if you are large.”