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20,000 years ago, two American cheetahs fought to the death in a Grand Canyon cave

Some 20,000 years ago in a cave in a cliff wall in the Grand Canyon, two American cheetahs battled tooth against claw. The victor is lost to history, but one of the big cats, a juvenile that was bitten through the spine, likely died where it fell on the cave floor, leaving behind bones and bits of mummified tissue.

Now, the remains of this unfortunate feline, along with fossils from two other Grand Canyon caves, have revealed that the extinct American cheetah (Miracinonyx trumani) may not have been swift flatland sprinters like Africa’s modern cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus). Instead, these cats may have been more like today’s snow leopards (Panthera uncia), prowling cliff sides and rocky regions and eating mostly mountain goats and bighorn sheep.

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