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Anne Hilborn @AnneWHilborn
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NEXT UP: Second seed Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) vs third seed Crabeater Seal (Lobodon carcinophaga) #2018MMM
Last time the cheetah vanquished the aye aye leaving naught but a finger behind and the crabeater seal made a furry pancake out of jaguarundi. #2018MMM
Will the curse of the aye aye cripple the cheetah this round? How will the seal cope with a much larger less squashy cat? Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin. #2018MMM
The following gripping narration is the the result of the combined efforts of @Drew_Lab and myself #2018MMM
Once again our scene is the plains of Serengeti NP in Tanzania. This time it is the seal who is really out of his depth and comfort zone. There are no frigid seas or ice floes to keep 600 lbs of blubber and flesh wrapped in a fur coat cool. #2018MMM
It is mid day and the sun is beating down. Serengeti is at ~5000 ft of elevation so it is rarely over 85 degree F, but that's 100 deg hotter than today's high in Antarctica. The seal has managed to awkwardly hump himself into a water hole in an attempt to cool down. #2018MMM
Most of the seal’s adaptations concern keeping warm, and though he does
have sweat glands, they cannot keep up with these types of temperatures. He hopes that wallowing will transfer heat from his belly skin to the
mud (much like this hyena) #2018MMM
That morning the cheetah had moved into an area of the plains consisting of black cotton soil. Our hapless PhD student Anne got mired in the
sticky ooze and has been digging out her Landrover for the past 2 hours & can't follow the cheetah #fieldworkfail #2018MMM #NoDataForHer
Though cheetahs can survive in arid areas like Namibia and Algeria without drinking much, there is plenty of water in Serengeti during the wet season.
The aye aye was a particularly wizened and dry meal and the cheetah decides he needs a drink #2018MMM
He approaches the water hole and starts to drink, not too far from what he takes to be a log. The seal starts awake and looks around when he hears the cheetah drink. The cheetah is very unused to logs coming to life, and he rockets backwards in alarm #2018MMM
The cheetah is hungry and a little curious so after collecting his courage he approaches the seal. The seal lunges at the cheetah, mouth open showing all his glorious krill filtering teeth, giving the low moan he would use against rival males… #2018MMM
Cheetahs are very successful predators for cats, having a hunting success of ~40%. Their usual mode of attack is a stalk, then a short high speed chase (<60 sec) which ends with cheetah tripping the prey then applying a strangulation bite #2018MMM…
But the key is that prey have to run away. Cheetahs are nonplussed by things that square up to them. The seal is not running away and even undulating towards the cheetah. Utterly unnerved by this ambulatory sausage, the cheetah retreats to safety on a termite mound #2018MMM
This aerobic outburst has heated the seal up even more, and he feels like he is cooking from the inside. He tries to make it back to the water hole, but moving across land w flippers is inefficient & energetically costly, raising his internal temp to dangerous levels. #2018MMM
The sun beats down, heat haze shimmers across the landscape, the cheetah waits on the heights of the termite mound as the seal expires with a last hot crustacean flavored gasp #2018MMM
After making sure the threat is neutralized, the cheetah descends and approaches the seal. Despite being quite hungry by now, cheetahs very rarely scavenge carcasses (Caro 1994), so after sneezing at the unfamiliar stench, he moves off to find live prey #2018MMM
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