Like many of you, I watched some of the London Summer Olympics earlier this month. The competition, the commitment, the cheering crowds, and the support the athletes must have from their friends and family were all amazing to see. I started to wonder how some competitions would come out if we opened them up to the animal kingdom. Crossing the finish line for short distance speed races, the cheetah would come in first at 70 mph.
A charging lion would be coming in fast at 50 mph. For the long distance runner, you'd need to look to the pronghorn for the gold medal, achieving 61 mph. Yes, at first the cheetah, if it enters the distance contest, is out front. But the pronghorn can maintain its speed over the longer distance so it wins in the end. One thing's for sure, don't bet on the slug or the sloth if they were to enter the race.
When the venue for the speed competition moves to the air, the winner of two gold medals, one in the diving contest and one for overall speed, would be the Peregrine falcon that reaches up to 200-plus mph in its hunting dive. If the competition course is designed for level flying only, then look to the spine-tailed swift flying at 106 mph to win the day. A water speed competition would go to the Indo-Pacific sailfish. The sailfish swims at 68 mph over short periods.
The weight lifting competitions are won by two very different species. One goes to the African elephant. Lifting 25 percent of its own body weight, it earns the gold for actual tonnage lifted. Each of the elephants at Lee Richardson Zoo weighs around 8,000 pounds so that would have them lifting 2,000 pounds each. When the contest is based on body size, the rhinoceros beetle takes the top spot on the podium, lifting 850 times its body weight.
For the high jump, you might have to get out your magnifying glass to truly appreciate the endeavor. Relative to its size, the flea is the winner, jumping 130 times its own height. The flea is also the winner of the relative long jump covering 220 times its body length. If the competition is on the actual length of the jump, the snow leopard at 50 feet and the red kangaroo at 40 feet would be competing for top honors. When it comes to speed jumping (OK I made that competition up), the red kangaroo is in there again, jumping along at 56 mph.
If there were a biting contest, the top competitors would be the white shark, which has been calculated to exert 4,000 pounds per square inch (psi), and the saltwater crocodile, who has a measured bite force of 3,700 psi. The hyena, lion and snapping turtle would be biting it out for the bronze at around 1,000 psi.
The deepest diving mammal competition would be a close call between the sperm whale and the elephant seal, both diving more than a mile deep. The loudest cheering section would be filled with blue whales. They can make sounds of 188 decibels (a jet engine is 140 dB) that have been detected as far away as 530 miles.
Speaking of competition and cheering sections, come join the zoo's cheering section at "A Wild Affair — Jungle Boogie" on Saturday, Sept. 8. The event starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are on sale now for $40 ($45 after Sept. 2) at the zoo, Baker Boot, Herb's Carry Out, Patrick Dugan's Coffee House, Wheatfield's on Main and online at www.folrz.com. Enjoy an evening of food, beverage, music, and some friendly competition at the live and silent auctions, all of which supports Lee Richardson Zoo. Just like the athletes in the Olympics, we need your support to win the gold.
Visit our website at www.leerichardsonzoo.org.