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No. 47: Sep-Oct 1986

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How The Cheetah Lost Its Stotts

"Faced with a predator, for example, a cheetah, many deer, antelope and other bovids turn tail and run. But they also go in for a very curious display, before and during the run. They bounce up in the air, keeping all four legs straight. Stotting, as the display is known, must make the animal visible, and presumably also vulnerable to the predator. It certainly attracts the human observer's attention, and there has been no shortage of 'explanations' for this strange behavior."

Actually, at least 11 hypotheses have been proposed. T. Caro has observed Thomson's gazelles stott on more than 200 occasions, usually in response to a cheetah or himself. Caro thinks that adult gazelles stott to proclaim to the cheetah that it has been detected and no longer has surprise in its favor. Cheetahs often do give up after stotting. Further, stotting gazelles have never been seen to be caught -- so far.

(Anonymous; "How the Cheetah Lost Its Stotts," New Scientist, p. 34, June 19, 1986.)

Reference. More information on stotting and other unusual mammalian behavior, see BMB32 in our catalog: Biological Anomalies: Mammals I. Ordering information here.

Springbok stotting or 'pronking' A springbok stotting or 'pronking'

From Science Frontiers #47, SEP-OCT 1986. 1986-2000 William R. Corliss