This ensures that the species, individually and as a whole, can adapt to changes in the environment and can continue to survive. About 10 000 years ago extreme climatic changes drove many animal species to extinction. The cheetah species that survived this period found itself in a genetic bottleneck with only a few animals left. This led to close relatives mating with one another and resulted in genetic inbreeding. Genetic ecologists believe that this is what caused the cheetahs to lose their genetic diversity as time went by.