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 runningUsain 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)

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