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American cheetah

The American cheetah hunting a lone pronghorn.

The American cheetah is a species of cat part of the genus Miracinonyx, endemic to North America during the Pleistocene epoch (2.6 million to 12,000 years ago) to today. They are morphologically similar to the African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), but despite this and its name, it is only distantly related to cheetahs, in fact, it is actually most closely related to cougars.

The two species commonly identified are M. inexpectatus and M. trumani. Sometimes, a third species, M. studeri, is included, but it is more often listed as a junior synonym of M. trumani. Both species are similar to the African cheetah, with faces shortened and nasal cavities expanded for increased oxygen capacity, and legs proportioned for swift running. However, these similarities are not be inherited from a common ancestor, but instead resulted from either parallel or convergent evolution. Both species are larger than an African cheetah and similar in size to a cougar. Body mass is typically around 70 kg (150 lb), with a head-and-body length of 170 cm (67 in), tail length around 92 cm (36 in), and shoulder height of 85 cm (33 in). The largest specimen ever killed weighed more than 95 kg (209 lb).

Due to some habitat loss and other human activities during the late 1800s to early 1930s, American cheetahs were listed as Endangered, but thanks to conservation efforts, American cheetah populations have (mostly) recovered and are now back from the brink of extinction. They are now listed as Least Concern by conservationists.

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