Moos' Blog

Biodiversity Counts!
Observations and opinions concerning zoos, evolution, nature conservation and the way we treat/support the ecosystems which are supposed to serve us.


Survival of the fastest, strongest or the most versatile, Olympics vs Earth

published 29 July 2012 | modified 18 December 2016

As world's best athletes showcase their abilities in the London Olympics next few weeks it is about time to put all those physical achievements in perspective.

Let me show you some comparisons made by Craig Sharp from the Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Brunel University (Veterinary Record of July 28), considering the physical features speed, stamina and power:

Cheetahs running    Usain Bolt

  • Usain Bolt ran 100 metres in 9.58 seconds; a cheetah ran the same distance in 5.8 seconds;

  • Usain Bolt ran 200 metres in 19.19 seconds; a cheetah covered the same distance in 6.9 seconds, Black Caviar (racehorse) in 9.98 seconds, and a greyhound in 11.2 seconds;

  • Michael Johnson ran the 400 metres in 43.18 seconds compared with 19.2 seconds for a racehorse and 21.4 seconds for a greyhound;

  • David Rushida ran 800 metres in 1 minute 41 seconds, compared with 33 seconds for the pronghorn antelope and 49.2 seconds for a greyhound;

  • An endurance horse ran a full marathon in 1 hour 18 minutes and 29 seconds, compared with the 2 hours, 3 minutes and 38 second record of Patrick Makau Musyoki;

  • In the long jump, a red kangaroo has leapt 12.8 metres compared to the 8.95 metres Mike Powell achieved. Its high jump of 3.1 metres exceeds Javier Sotomayor's at 2.45, who is also trumped by the snakehead fish, which can leap 4 metres out of the water.


Cheetah at full speed during hunt:


Usain Bolt's 100 m world record of 9.58, Berlin - 2009:


Let's forget about the cheetah, a highly specialised predator with incredible speed as its main asset for hunting down prey. What about the dromedary camel? Well, this animal's top speed (35.3 kph) is just slightly lower than the maximum speed humans can achieve, a respectable 37.6 kph.

And what would happen if we're able to teach a gorilla throwing a discus. Human athletes would definitely lose the competition of this primate, because its strength allows it to lift 900 kg. So, weightlifters stand no chance either.

Moreover, we may think that some of us have great endurance, but some animal species would easily exceed our long distance running capacities. Such as the dromedary camel, which can maintain speeds of 16kph for over 18 hours. And what to think of a pack of Siberian huskies, which set a record in 2011, racing for almost 9 days, covering 114 miles a day.

Does this mean that humans are physically degenerated when compared to other species? Evolutionarily speaking, the answer would be yes, I suppose. Although there is more to it than physical development of single features, of course. Human beings are the most versatile. Do you think a camel can jump as high as Sotomayor's 2.45 meters, or a racehorse do a backflip? So, when we would challenge all those specialised species for a decathlon, we would easily win the competition based on our physical versatility. But a decathlon is far from real life's survival requirements. We developed other skills to withstand Nature's challenges, but this intelligence also brought us greed and the need to continuously improve our welfare. As a result we are changing our environment in such a pace that we may not adapt fast enough to survive. Will we go down to our own success? Let us worry in a few weeks time, first enjoy the London Olympics.


(Source: EurekAlert, 27.07.2012)


Related blogs

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map


"Tiger map" (CC BY 2.5) by Sanderson et al., 2006.


about zoos and their mission regarding breeding endangered species, nature conservation, biodiversity and education, which of course relates to the evolution of species.
Follow me on: