20,000 years ago, two cheetahs fought to the death in the Grand Canyon

About 20,000 years ago, two American cheetahs fought in a cave in the Grand Canyon. One of the two was a minor. Bitten on the spine, the animal died on the spot, leaving several bones and other pieces of mummified tissue. Analysis of these remains allows us to learn more about these ancient predators.

Miracinonyx trumani Is an extinct species of American cheetah that lived in the Pleistocene in North America. His bones were found from West Virginia to Arizona, passing through Wyoming. This cheetah was closely related to the cougar, but had a short snout and thin proportions of modern African cheetahs.

It has long been thought that this predator evolved mainly on the vast open plains of the modern United States, feeding on antelope. The running speed of this ancient cat could also explain why modern American antelopes (American antelope) can work on more than 95 km / h. None of their living predators is really rushing so fast. The American cheetah was probably capable of this.

With this in mind, new research shows that these ancient cheetahs also visited much steeper places. This work was published in the May issue of the Bulletin of the Museum of Natural History and Science of New Mexico.

Deadly attack

These fossils have been found in several caves in the Grand Canyon: Next Door Cave and Stanton Cave. Researchers identified them several decades ago. Only at that time were these remains identified as belonging to cougars (Puma colonel). Re-analysis of these bones eventually revealed that they belonged to American cheetahs.

More recently, new bones have been excavated in another cave called Rampart Cave. Paleontologists have indeed identified the remains of two people. One was a minor (the feline equivalent of a teenager) and the other was a cub for about six months.

According to analyzes, the young man was attacked while suffering stab wounds to the skull and spine probably caused by an adult American cheetah. These injuries could have been the result of a territorial battle, or perhaps one male cheetah was trying to kill another’s cubs. This type of behavior is observed today in African lions. However, the attack was fatal.

It is unknown whether the two young cats in the cave were related. However, some semi-mummified soft tissues are still clinging to the bones, so researchers may be able to reconstruct and analyze enough DNA to find out.

Elements of the skull and lower jaw of an adult Miracinonyx trumani from the Rampart Cave. Authors: John Paul Michael Hodnett

Cut like a snow leopard

In any case, these findings show that American cheetahs evolved outside the pastures, no longer feeding on antelopes, but probably mountain goats (Oreamnos Harrington) and the horned ram.

In addition, the remains of this unfortunate cat suggest that this American cheetah may not have been as fast a sprinter as once thought. Instead, these cats may have been more like modern snow leopards (panther ounce), wading through rocks and other rocky areas in search of prey.

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