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Animal behavior informed by history: Was the Asiatic cheetah an obligate gazelle hunter?

Farhadinia, Mohammad S., Nezami, Bagher, Ranjbaran, Ali, Valdez, Raul (2023) Animal behavior informed by history: Was the Asiatic cheetah an obligate gazelle hunter? PLOS ONE, 18 (4). Article Number e0284593. ISSN 1932-6203. (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0284593) (KAR id:101015)


Understanding key ecological adaptations, such as foraging, when a predator is almost extinct is complex. Nonetheless, that information is vital for the recovery of the persisting individuals. Therefore, reviewing historical, ethnobiological and recent records can assist in exploring the species behavioral ecology. We applied this approach to Asiatic cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus), which once roamed most west and central Asian countries but now is confined to a few dozens in Iran, at historical (pre-1970) and recent (post-1970) scales. We addressed a widely popular perception that Asiatic cheetahs were subjected to prey shifts from gazelles (Gazella spp.) in open plains areas to urial (Ovis vignei) in mountains because of gazelle populations declines due to anthropogenic influences. We also quantified recent prey choice of Asiatic cheetahs and their behavioral plasticity in foraging different prey species types. Although ethnobiological and historical records suggested that gazelle species were the main prey for cheetahs across their Asian range. However, urial were also commonly reported to be hunted by cheetahs across their historical Asian range, showing that the predation on mountain ungulates is not an emerging hunting behavior in Asiatic cheetahs. We found spatiotemporal plasticity in recent hunting behavior of cheetahs with selective predation on adult urial males. There was temporal overlap in hunting times for plains dwelling versus mountain ungulates, albeit with some minor differences with morning mostly for gazelles while the predation on mountain ungulates was predominantly post-midday. We provided three management implications for the recovery and restoration of cheetahs in Asia. Our work highlighted the importance of historical studies in informing the behavioral ecology of rare species.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0284593
Uncontrolled keywords: biology and life sciences; ecology and environmental sciences; social sciences; people and places
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH541 Ecology
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH75 Conservation (Biology)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
Funders: University of Kent (
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2023 09:22 UTC
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 13:07 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Farhadinia, Mohammad S..

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