Researchers do not know if cheetahs’ teeth adapted to suit the prey they hunt, or if how cheetahs hunt and eat is because of their teeth. Cheetah teeth development is a “chicken or the egg” sort of evolutionary question, but it is closely tied to their lifestyle.
Compared to other key predators in their native range, like lions and hyenas, cheetahs hunt smaller, midsize prey, such as springbok and gazelles. They rely on their speed and dew claws, or the claw located above and to the rear of the paw, to trip their prey. Once the prey falls, its neck must be small enough for a cheetah to grab so it can suffocate the prey.
Cheetahs’ teeth are also structured to take as much meat off their prey as fast as possible, because they have a high risk of losing their meals to stronger animals. A lion, on the other hand, will work at the bones of its prey to get every scrap. Its strength and size enable it to fight off most other animals that may want to steal its catch. Cheetahs focus on eating the organs and muscles and will flee if another animal goes in to steal the remains.