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American Cheetah (Miracinonyx)



The American Cheetah was more closely related to this modern cougar (Wikimedia Commons)


American Cheetah; also known as Miracinonyx; pronounced mih-rah-SIN-oh-nix


Plains of North America

Historical Period:

Pleistocene-Modern (2 million-10,000 years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 6 feet long and 100-150 pounds



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Long legs; lithe body; blunt snout


About the American Cheetah (Miracinonyx):

Like the American Lion, the American Cheetah (genus name Miracinonyx) may yet turn out to have an incorrect nickname; there's an argument to be made that this Pleistocene predator was more closely related to pumas or cougars than to cheetahs. If the American Cheetah turns out not to have been a true cheetah, you can chalk the error up to convergent evolution, the tendency for animals in the same ecosystems to evolve the same general features: like modern cheetahs, the lithe, long-legged Miracinonyx made its living by pursuing speedy mammalian megafauna across the rolling North American plains. Adding to the uncertainty, the American Cheetah comprises two very different species (Miracinonyx trumani and Miracinonyx inexpectatus), which may potentially wind up being assigned to different genera, depending on future fossil discoveries.

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