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A genome study concluded that cheetahs experienced two genetic bottlenecks in their history, the first about 100,000 years ago and the second about 12,000 years ago, greatly lowering their genetic variability.
Cheetah cubs face higher mortality than most other mammals, especially in the Serengeti region.
Extinct North American cats resembling the cheetah had historically been assigned to Felis, Puma or Acinonyx.
However, a phylogenetic analysis in 1990 placed these species under the genus Miracinonyx.
The cheetah reaches nearly 70 to 90 cm (28 to 35 in) at the shoulder, and weighs 21–72 kg (46–159 lb).
Though taller than the leopard, it is notably smaller than the lion.
The cheetah is characterised by a slender body, deep chest, spotted coat, a small rounded head, black tear-like streaks on the face, long thin legs and a long spotted tail.