Athleticism, swiftness, vigour, strength and endurance: we celebrate these accomplishments of human endeavour with medals in the Olympic Games, but in the animal kingdom species perform amazing feats every day, not for medals but for survival, which can make humans look decidedly second class! In fact, many official world records held by trained athletes could easily be beaten by some wild animals!
So here we are going to hold a hypothetical Animal Olympics! And see who is going home with the medals!
The highest running speed of a human was recorded at of a staggering 27.79 mph (44.72 km/h), seen during a 100 meters sprint by Jamaican, Usain Bolt. The sprinters of the animal kingdom, however, make this seem slow by comparison!
The Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is considered to be the fastest running mammal on Earth, with a top sprinting speed thought to be around 70 mph (112 km/h). In its natural habitat in Africa, the Cheetah can outrun its fleetest prey. Like human sprinters, however, it cannot sprint at top speed for long and must take down its prey within a distance of about 300 yards.
The Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), the world’s most widespread bird of prey, is widely acknowledged to be the fastest moving bird, achieving astonishing speeds during its characteristic dives for prey. Some sources say it can top 200 mph, while others put the figure closer to 120 mph. Either way, it must be hard for any other prey to escape it!
The Sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus) are the fastest known fish in the world but what’s more amazing is that they can keep pace with the Cheetahs on land, swimming as fast as 70 mph (112 km/h). This swift swimmer usually feeds on the surface of the oceans or at mid-depths on smaller fish and squid. In general, Sailfish do not grow to more than 3 meters (10 ft) in length and rarely weigh over 90 kg (200 lb).
The Olympic Marathon, a trifling 26 miles, doesn’t even come close to the marathons some animals endure. Take the Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea), for instance. It migrates between the North and South Poles, covering a distance of as much as 30,000 miles (48,280 km) each and every year!
Fish can make long-distance migrations as well. Some Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), swimming between the ocean and the rivers in which they spawn, can cover over 2,000 miles (3,218 km). European Eels (Anguilla anguilla) are said to swim up to 3,700 miles (5,954 km) to reach their breeding grounds in the Sargasso Sea located in the Atlantic Ocean.
The longest migration by a mammal however is the 10,000 mile (16,093 km) yearly circuit made by the Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus) from the Arctic to its warm winter breeding grounds and back again.
No animal on Earth can lift as much weight as the African Elephant (Loxodonta africana), which can pick up to 600 pounds (272 kg) of weight with just its trunk! Relative to body size, however, the Elephant doesn’t even come close to the Rhinoceros Beetle (Dynastes hercules). This rather strange looking creature can carry 850 times its own body weight. The Elephant, carrying only one fourth of its body weight, isn’t even close in this weight lifting contest!
In Australia, the Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus) have been known to jump a 10 foot (3m) fence. While, North America’s White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) can hurdle an obstacle 8 and a half foot (2.6m) high. The African, Klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus), however, takes the gold for the mammals, able to jump 10 times their 5 foot (1.5m) body height! Those leapers have got nothing on the lowly Flea (Siphonaptera sp.) however, considered the longest and highest animal jumper! Fleas can jump 220 times their own body length and 150 times their own body height!
The Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) is generally acknowledged to be the deepest diving mammal. The Sperm Whale is known to dive a mile (5,280 feet or 1,609 m) or deeper and to stay underwater for more than 2 hours! The Emperor Penguin is considered the deepest diving bird, which can dive to a depth of 1,770 feet (539 m).
Overall Animal Olympic Champion
But what animals are the true Champion Olympians? My answer may surprise you! In my eyes, the world’s true Champion Olympian, is barely 1mm long! They are known as Planktonic Copepods (Copepoda sp.) and, in relation to their size, are more than 10 times as strong as any other documented species! Copepods are small crustaceans found in the sea and in nearly every freshwater habitat. The Copepod has vibrating feeding limbs that create a feeding current, while at the same time allowing it to move or swim almost continuously. In addition, it has 4 or 5 pairs of swimming legs or jumping legs, which allows it to jump in order to escape from predators. These legs mean it can jump further than any other animal in relation to its size and also reach much greater speeds! The streamlined, hydro dynamic shape and pure muscular strength of the Copepod is what explains its most powerful jump and speed, making it the true animal Champion Olympian!
The athletes at the Olympic Games are an inspiration to us all about the strength and endurance of the human spirit, but we should also be inspired by the Olympian animals out in the natural world! Their feats are just as deserving of a medal or two!
So what animals are your Olympic gold medal winners? Who’d be on your Olympic Champion podium? Let me know by commenting below!