Special Sub-Topic: Welcome to the Animalympics!
|Our first event is the long jump! The competitors line up in what promises to be a fiercely close contest. In the end, it is narrowly won by this beautifully patterned creature, as its "drift" cheer it on. What type of animal is this?|
The snow leopard. We open with possibly the most closely fought contest of these games.
The "drift" in the question refers to the collective noun for snow leopards.
Like humans, the horizontal jumps recorded for all of these animals vary greatly between individuals. In the end, it came down to the snow leopard or the red kangaroo. The snow leopard has adapted such a large leap in order to catch its prey. The red kangaroo, with its large feet and muscular legs, can achieve a distance of up to 30 feet in one bound. Whilst this is impressive, the snow leopard is able to jump up to 50 feet! We only accept the best of the best here at the Animalympics ;).
The mountain lion should also be noted for its large leap, reaching distances of up to 40 ft.
While the flea can perhaps leap further than any other animal in relation to its size, it failed to compete with these giants. Some actually claimed that the flea did not show up for the event, but after a close camera zoom, this was proved untrue.
The human can come surprisingly close to the snow leopard and red kangaroo in terms of the world record set.
|Our next event is the 100m sprint - seen by many as the most impressive event to master in the animal kingdom. This event was dominated by the mammals once again. There was little surprise when the bookies' favourite, the cheetah, took gold. However, which animal snatched the silver medal? |
The pronghorn. Yes, the North American competitor, the pronghorn, takes silver in the face of a mostly African-run race! After evolving to outrun a now extinct North American cheetah, the pronghorn can reach speeds of 60 mph. The pronghorn perhaps picked the wrong event here, as it would easily outrun the cheetah in a slightly longer race.
Out of these competitors, the lion would come third at a speed of 50 mph, followed by the zebra in 4th, just missing the medals.
Whereas the cheetah and pronghorn would hold their 1st and 2nd positions against any competitor, there were several notable absences from the race, giving the lion a lucky bronze. Such absences include the wildebeest and Thomson's gazelle. However, the gazelle failed the drugs test and the wildebeest was eaten by a croc on the way to the race!
Surprisingly, the rabbit performed much better than many expected, outrunning the human!
|In the blink of an eye (literally), the sprint is over, and now the 10,000m race begins. Which of these animals are you least likely to see accepting a medal at the end of this race? |
The leopard. The big cats have mastered short distance running, but few have the stamina to keep up this speed over a longer distance. For this reason, most big cats in the wild either hunt in packs or are ambush predators.
On the other hand, the hyena and the African hunting dog are expert hunters over long distances. Instead of a rapid burst of speed, both will chase their prey (African hunting dogs have been known to do this for up to 4 hours!) until the prey tires. These methods are far more successful than those of the big cats.
Well, the pronghorn finally got it right! Coming second in the 100m is in the past, as this animal takes gold in the long distance running. As well as being one of the fastest sprinters on the planet, the pronghorn can maintain speeds of 35 mph for up to 4 hours.
|Next, we head to the Animalympic swimming pool for the 200m freestyle. The mammals are well represented once again in the shape of the dolphin. However, it is still no match for the fish kingdom. Which fish dazzled the spectators in this event, claiming its first gold medal? |
The Indo-Pacific sailfish. The top speed recorded for the sailfish is an incredible 68 mph!
The speed achieved by all of these fish is phenomenal! Millions of years of natural selection have meant that they have adapted physical properties to decrease drag and increase speed.
The sailfish has adapted a spear-like nose, similar to that of a marlin or swordfish (both of which would likely finish in the medal positions in this event). Also, the characteristic sail of the sailfish is folded down whilst swimming, so as to reach maximum speed (it is usually only displayed if the fish feels threatened). Powerful muscles either side of the fish's tail also help it with quick bursts of speed, meaning it can get off to a terrific start in this race.
As the spectators follow the race leaders, the human contestant quickly disappears out of the field of view.
|The Animalympic Games do not just reward individual sporting achievements, but team efforts too! Once again, the mammals excel in this event. Which group of animals are the most likely to rival the mammals in team events such as building a home, communicating, and gathering food? |
Insects. Many groups of mammals have been known to communicate and co-operate very well with each other. These include beavers, dolphins and even humans!
Dolphins have displayed much teamwork when hunting - several dolphins will circle a school of fish, causing the fish to become confused and leap out of the water. When this happens, other dolphins would jump out of the water to catch the fish in mid-air! This is done on a rotation basis so that every dolphin gets a meal.
However, few can rival the insects in terms of team work. As we saw in the long jump, the insect's small size is a huge disadvantage in these games. So, insects often become part of "colonies", making their efforts in building a place to live, gathering food, and defending their territory far more successful.
A good example of this is an ant colony. Ant colonies are made up of several different types of ant performing different jobs - these include worker ants who build and maintain the colony, and the queen whose sole purpose is to lay eggs. The ants communicate via pheromones, laying trails for other ants to follow. Some ants have large mandibles, used to defend the worker ants from other animals.
|Next is one of the most prestigious events in the Animalympics - the spitting competition. Our contestants have practised long and hard for this event. Which of these animals will be unlikely to take home a medal in this event? |
The bald eagle. No, far too polite and majestic, the bald eagle would never spit. Llamas, on the other hand, are known for spitting at each other - possibly a trait learnt form members of their family (Camelidae). However, llamas are not widely known for spitting at humans. Spitting is just one of the many skills of the llama, along with kicking, guarding, and carrying heavy loads. (Llamas have even been known to make a good golf caddy!)
The African ringhal cobra is one of the deadliest snakes on the planet. Its "spit" is a way of warning off predators or other animals which it sees as a threat. The snake has been known to be extremely accurate with its aim and, if launched successfully into the eyes of another animal, can blind it. In most cases, the venom is not fatal unless it enters the bloodstream.
The archerfish is very odd in its methods of hunting. The fish uses its specially adapted mouth to spit water at insects on over-hanging branches and leaves, knocking the insects into the water.
|So far, the big cats have featured quite largely in these games, and this event is just for them. Which of these big cats would be least likely to win a medal in the roaring contest? |
The snow leopard. Yes, this is an Animalympics original!
The snow leopard is one of the few big cats which cannot roar. It was once thought that the hyoid bone, which is found in the neck region, was what allowed big cats to roar. Although possessing the hyoid bone, the snow leopard still lacks this quality. It has been found recently that there are several contributing factors to the roar of the big cat. One of these contributing factors is the larynx, which is notably absent from the snow leopard's anatomy.
There has been talk at this years games that the roaring contest will soon be open to all types of animals. This has the lion (the reigning champion) worried. The biggest threat promises to be the blue whale. The blue whale can make sounds measuring up to 188 decibels, topping the roar of a lion which is roughly 115 decibels. Watch out Leo!
|Next, we head over to the aviary, just in time for the diving competition. The rules in this one are simple - whichever bird records the fastest dive will win the gold. For the benefit of those who missed the event, can you please reveal the winner? |
The peregrine falcon. Once again there were few upsets in this contest. The peregrine falcon is an extremely fast flier as it is, but when it tucks its wings up and enters a dive (in this case known as a "stoop") it can reach speeds of over 200 mph! Not only does this make the peregrine falcon the gold medal winner in the speed diving contest, but also the fastest animal that has ever lived!
The benefit of this amazingly fast dive is shown during hunting. The peregrine hunts smaller birds and attacks whilst both it and its prey are in mid flight. Its sheer speed means that few birds can escape it.
|Still in the aviary, this next event looks at which bird can fly the highest. Which high-flying African raptor was able to snatch the gold medal in this event? |
A Ruppell's vulture. At 37,730 feet above sea level, the Ruppell's vulture holds the record as the world's highest-flying bird (note - this is the highest recorded flight). This is possible as this bird's haemoglobin has an extremely high affinity for oxygen, and so lots of the vital gas can be "loaded" into the red blood cells of the vulture, even when oxygen concentrations are low.
The Ruppell's vulture uses its incredible eyesight whilst hunting in the vast open areas of North Africa. Like many other vultures, the Ruppell's vulture will circle prey before devouring the carcass. However, unlike most vultures, its diet consists of dead animals ONLY. Most vultures supplement their diet with live prey from time to time. Another quality which separates the Ruppell's vulture from most other vultures is that it is a very social bird, and will sometimes nest with over 100 other vultures.
|Finally, we come to the fighting arena. Which black and white creature, noted for punching well above its weight, its vicious temper, and its love of sweet treats, is a worthy winner of this gold medal? |
The honey badger. Some of these animals are a wildlife presenter's worst nightmare! They are seemingly harmless, yet are volatile and extremely dangerous. The camera-men and Animalympics officials therefore kept their distance during this event.
This honey badger will defend its food against any other animal. It is known to steal the honey from bee-hives, enduring hundreds of bee stings in the process. Some honey badgers have been found, stung to death in their attempts to obtain honey. Therefore, it has been named the most fearless animal in the Guinness Book of World Records. Due to the ferocity of the honey badger, few animals prey upon it.
Did you find these entries particularly interesting, or do you have comments / corrections to make? Let the author know!
Send the author a thank you or
Submit a correction