WILD Olympics!

While the U.S. had some pretty amazing athletes who raked in an impressive 113 medals (ahem, the most of any country), we think the animal kingdom has them beat! Check out who would stand on the podium if it were the WILD Olympics…

Of course there are some clear winners…

100 M Sprint
Cheetah – Go for Gold with the fastest land animal on the planet! The cheetah was created for sprinting. Right off the blocks they are impressive with an acceleration speed of 0 to 60 mph in less than six seconds. The amount of energy it takes to accelerate, run and leap at speeds between 50-80 miles per hour are enormous so the cheetah is a solid sprinter without the stamina for the long distance runs. The men’s 100m world record holder is Usain Bolt, with a time he set in 2009. His record stands at 9.58 seconds which means he clocks in at 27.33 MPH… which wouldn’t put him anywhere near the podium if he was competing with the animal kingdom!
Steeplechase
Gazelle – Perhaps running from the cheetah gave the Gazelle the experience to win this unique race. Originally a horse race, this 3,000 meter competition is now run on foot… er, hoof. On it’s surface the steeplechase looks simple… run, jump, avoid puddle, but this event holds within it some very important survival skills. The 2 miles, 28 hurdles and 7 water obstacles are no contest for the Gazelle who can easily dash though all sorts of habitats and obstacles. Gazelles can reach speeds up to 60 mph in short bursts and sustain speeds of 30 to 40 mph. When running, gazelles use a bounding leap, called “pronking” or “stotting,” which involves stiffly springing into the air with all four feet – which would easy clear the three foot hurdles and the 12 foot water hazards.
10KM Open Water Swim
Grey Whale – The marathoner of the sea is definitely the Grey Whale. These massive mammals migrate up to 14,000 miles round trip. The longest known migration of any mammal takes them from the warm waters of Mexico where they give birth to the chilly depths of their feeding grounds in the Arctic seas.
Recurve Archery
Honey Bee – These guys are experts at hitting the mark! Of course their bullseye is in the shape of a flower. Bees are incredible pollinators who love being dead center of flowers that they target for food so they would absolutely take the Gold in Archery. This skill is likely a combination of a bee’s ability to sense electrical fields and the unseen true colors of a flower. Let’s just say in the competition of the senses… humans definitely are not on the podium.
Long Jump
Tiger – These cats have mad hops! Their long powerful hind legs propel them up to 25 feet forward. Their back legs are actually much longer than their front legs which gives them more power from a standing position than our bipedal species.
Climbing
Green Rat Tailed Snake – These quick snakes are excellent climbers, spending most of their lives in the tree tops, with a widened body to help them grip the branches as they climb. We think our resident rat snake, Yoda would give competitive climbers a run for their money!
Fencing
Sandhill Cranes – With their long necks, agile lengthy legs and pointed beaks the Sandhill Crane could dominate no matter if it was the foil, épée, or sabre.  Animal Ambassadors Niles and Daphne Crane are more than a match for Olympic Fencers.

Here’s a couple competitive critters who came in so close that they are all on the podium!

Weightlifting
Silver – African Bush Elephant wins in brute strength, elephants are the strongest mammals and the strongest land animals. African elephants can weigh up to 6,350kg and they can carry up to 9,000kg, the weight of 130 adult humans. While many mammals’ skeletons account for around 10% of their body weight, the figure is closer to 20% for elephants, meaning they have a more robust frame. Then there is the remarkable trunk. It contains no bones or cartilage, instead comprising up to 150,000 bundles of muscle fibres… yep, pure muscle!
Bronze The Bald Eagle is able to lift something four times its own body weight during flight. Its crushing grip has something to do with that powerful pull. Eagles are estimated to have a grip strength ten times more powerful than the strongest human. The real strength of an eagle’s grip doesn’t so much come from their talons, but rather, from their leg muscles and tendons.
Gold – A dung beetle is not only the world’s strongest insect but also the strongest animal on the planet compared to body weight. If you’re thinking this is a competition that goes to the men… think again! It’s largely the female members of the species who carry a whopping 1,141 times their own body weight which is the equivalent of a 150-pound (70 kilogram) person lifting six full double-decker buses.
Diving
Bronze Both species of elephant seal have a breath-hold time of more than 100 minutes. This makes their dives as remarkable for their length as they are for depth. Male elephant seals often dive for more than 60 minutes at a time, and the depth record for this species is an incredible 7,835 feet.
Silver – Ready to take a deep dive with our Peregrine Falcon, Velocity?! These amazing birds can dive at speeds of over 240 miles per hour. Making themselves as aerodynamic as possible is their specialty just like the divers at the Olympics this year, though Falcone aren’t diving into water but onto their prey! We’d like to see the swim team do that!  This incredible skill earns Peregrine Falcons the Silver Medal in Diving.

Gold – Who took the gold??? That belongs to the Leatherback Turtle who can reach depths of a jaw dropping 3,000 feet!! Leatherbacks have adaptations which allow them to dive so deep including collapsable lungs. 😳 These adaptations likely developed so these giant turtles could chase their favorite meal – jellyfish down to their chill zone of 1,000 meters. The other theory is that the range of temperatures at different depths can help the turtles regulate their body temperatures. Here’s a link to a National Geographic interactive showing leatherbacks’ anatomical and physiological adaptations for deep diving.