Cat Family Evolution
(in millions of years)

Cheetah Puzzle

Cheetahs are special as they are the only member of the genus Acinonyx. They evolved about  5.5 million years ago along with the golden cats and pumas. Lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars evolved about 1.6 million years ago. << See the diagram at left.

Scientific Classification
Some experts state that all cheetah alive today are as closely related as identical twins. But can there be subspecies in identical twins?  Are there true difference in cheetah subspecies? 

Variations in fur length, spot diameter and body size make up the bulk of the described variations.  CARO describes A.j. velox as having "longer hair than jubatus, especially on nape and belly..." and A.j. hecki with a "small body size, dainty, pale", etc.  DIVYABHANUSINH describes those living in the Sahara Desert as lighter in color; those living in wooded areas as darker; those living in cold climates having longer fur.

Perhaps the different outward appearances of the subspecies simply depend on environment.

Kingdom Animal
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Carnivora
Family Felidae
Genus Acinonyx
Species jubatus
     African Subspecies South Africa A. j. jubatus
    East Africa A. j. velox
    East Africa A. j. raineyi
    Nigeria to Somalia A. j. soemmeringii
    Algeria and Benin A. j. hecki
     Asian Subspecies
Iran, Iraq, India, North Africa A. j. venaticus
Turkmenistan A. j. raddei

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