With the Rio 2016 Olympics in full swing, we thought we would look to the animal kingdom for its offering of world class sporting prowess.
Faster, higher, stronger is a motto engrained in the minds of Olympic athletes the world over. Yet even Usain Bolt, Allyson Felix and Michael Phelps would struggle to match the athletic abilities of some of the world’s most remarkable animals.
Here are our Top Ten Animal Athletes that would clean up on the medal podium!
The cheetah is the fastest land mammal on the planet, reaching speeds of up to 87 kilometres per hour. Even the fastest human on Earth, Usain Bolt, only peaks at a top speed of 28 miles per hour! Blink and you’ll miss it!
The high jump has been around since Ancient Greece. The current world record is currently 2.45 metres, set by Javier Sotomayor of Cuba in 1993 – the longest standing record in the history of the men’s high jump. The natural world is full of huge jumpers but the froghopper is leaps ahead. The undisputed high jump champion of the world, this 6 millimetre tall insect is able to jump an astounding 70 times its own body height!
3. Rhinoceros beetle
Move over World Deadlift Champion and world record holder Eddie Hall! The rhinoceros beetle is capable of lifting objects up to 850 times its own body weight. If Eddie had the same relative strength, he would be able to lift a 65 ton object – that’s the same as an armoured tank!
4. Arctic tern
The marathon is one of the toughest endurance events in the Olympics. Dennis Kimetto of Kenya currently holds the world record of completing a course in 2 hours, 2 minutes and 57 seconds. The animal kingdom is full of endurance record holders, but the artic tern leads the flock. It holds the record for the longest annual migration recorded by animal, covering 40,000 miles a year!
5. Desert locust
Ancient Olympians considered the long jump as one of the most challenging events. Some spring-loaded members of the natural world make the long jump seem like a total breeze. The desert locust can leap over a metre from a standing position. It needs no run up to jump around 20 times its own body length. If this jumping ability was scaled up in proportion to body size, this would mean humans would be able to do a standing long jump of over 40 metres.
6. Indo-Pacific sailfish
The natural world is stream-lined with underwater speed demons. From dolphins to Dory, there are some incredible swimmers lurking beneath the surface that would leave even Michael Phelps in their wake. But the Indo-Pacific sailfish is probably the fastest – capable of tremendous bursts of speed over short-distances it can reach speeds of up to 111 kilometres per hour!
7. Namaqua chameleon
Archery made its debut at the 1900 Summer Olympics, but the natural world has had the perfect aim for over 80 million years. Chameleons don’t need a bow and arrow to hit their target, just a super long tongue! With a bulbous sticky tip, which it shoots out to capture its prey, the tongue of the Namaqua chamelton may be up to twice the length of the body. Who needs a gold medal when you get the reward of a tasty insect treat?
It’s not just the froghopper that reaches dizzy heights, in terms of absolute height reached, it’s this small African antelope that is leaps and bounds ahead. With a name meaning ‘rock jumper’ in Afrikaans, the klipspringer is able to jump up to 7.68 metres! That’s over three times the world record!
9. Mountain gorilla
Wrestling with its primal hand-to-hand combat and complex tactics has featured in the Olympics since 1896 but has been around as a sport since Ancient Greece. With its characteristically heavy and robust body, broad chest and long arms, the heavyweight title surely has to go to the gorilla. The largest of the living apes, it would floor even the most fierce of Olympic opponents.
10. Spinner dolphin
A women-only discipline, synchronised swimming is renowned for its grace and rhythm. This aquatic ballet first featured in the 1984 Olympics but like archery, the natural world has been perfecting this sport for millions of years. Like the Olympians, spinner dolphins move about the oceans in groups, ranging from just a few performers up to a thousand and as their name suggests, they love to perform at the surface. The reason behind the energetic spinning behaviour is unknown, but it is thought that it could be to help with communication, to dislodge hitch-hiking parasites or simply just part of play!