Even Usain Bolt can't beat greyhounds, cheetahs...or pronghorn antelope

July 27, 2012

[Animal athletes: a performance view Veterinary Record July 28; 171; 87-94]

Even Usain Bolt, currently the fastest man in the world, couldn't outpace greyhounds, cheetahs, or the pronghorn antelope, finds a light-hearted comparison of the extraordinary athleticism of humans and animals in the Veterinary Record.

As Olympic competition starts in earnest today, Craig Sharp from the Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Brunel University, highlights a range of animals whose speed and strength easily trumps that of our most elite athletes.

Humans can run at a maximum speed of 23.4 miles per hour (37.6 kilometres/hour) or 10.4 metres per second, which gives them the edge over the Dromedary camel.

But only just, as these animals can run at a top speed of 22 mph (35.3 kph) or 9.8 metres/second.

A cheetah is around twice as fast as the world's top sprinters at 64 mph (104 kph) or 29 metres/second. But the pronghorn antelope also puts in a very respectable 55 mph (89 kph) or 24.6 metres/second.

And let's not forget the North African ostrich, which at 40 mph (64kph) or 18 metres/second, is the world's fastest running bird. Or sailfish, which reach a swimming speed of 67 mph (108 kph) or 30 metres/second.

Then, of course, there are thoroughbred racehorses, the fastest of which has managed 55mph (88kph), and greyhounds at 43 mph (69kph).

And birds would win a few gold medals too. Peregrine falcons can reach speeds of 161 mph (259 kph), while ducks and geese rival cheetahs, with speeds of 64 mph (103 kph) in level flight.

And when it comes to power, pheasant and grouse can generate 400 Watts per kilo--five times as powerful as trained athletes. The tiny hummingbird can manage 200W/kg.

And in terms of strength, an African elephant can lift 300 kg with its trunk and carry 820 kg. A grizzly bear can lift 455 kg, while a gorilla can lift a whopping 900 kg.

Human beings have adapted fantastically well to marathons and long distance running, says Professor Sharp--long legs, short toes, arched feet and ample fuel storage capacity all help.

But they might find it hard to beat camels, which can maintain speeds of 10 mph (16kph) for over 18 hours, or Siberian huskies, which set a record in 2011, racing for 8 days, 19 hours, and 47 minutes, covering 114 miles a day.

And just to set the record straight..... "Citius, Althius, Fortius [Faster, Higher, Stronger] is the Olympic motto, but if we allowed the rest of the animal kingdom into the Games, and it was to select the peregrine falcon (161 mph), Ruppel's vulture (37,000 feet) and the 190 ton blue whale as its representatives, we could not offer much competition," writes Professor Sharp.

"Or even if restricted to terrestrial animals, we could be up against the cheetah (65 mph), the red kangaroo (3.1 metres) and the 12 ton bull African elephant--worth a thought when viewing the adulation given to our species' Olympic outliers in July," he continues.

But no single species matches the physical versatility of human beings, he concludes, and that is what the Games are designed to display to best effect.
-end-


BMJ

Related Cheetah Articles from Brightsurf:

Texas A&M lion genetics study uncovers major consequences of habitat fragmentation
Over the course of only a century, humanity has made an observable impact on the genetic diversity of the lion population.

Sea skaters are a super source of inspiration
A study of marine Halobates species highlights how their waterproofing techniques, size and acceleration capability helped them colonize the ocean.

Inspired by cheetahs, researchers build fastest soft robots yet
Inspired by the biomechanics of cheetahs, researchers have developed a new type of soft robot that is capable of moving more quickly on solid surfaces or in the water than previous generations of soft robots.

Preservation of testicular cells to save endangered feline species
A research team at the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) developed a method to isolate and cryopreserve testicular cells.

Hair in 'stress': Analyze with care
Similar to humans, wild animals' reaction to disturbance is accompanied by releasing hormones, such as cortisol.

Human-caused biodiversity decline started millions of years ago
The human-caused biodiversity decline started much earlier than researchers used to believe.

Mammals' complex spines are linked to high metabolisms; we're learning how they evolved
Mammals' backbones are weird. They're much more complex than the spines of other land animals like reptiles.

Fun run
Attention runners: The next time you go out for a jog, you might want to strap a light resistance band between your feet.

Early first pregnancy is the key to successful reproduction of cheetahs in zoos
Cheetah experts in many zoos around the world are at a loss.

Thai dinosaur is a cousin of T. rex
Scientists from the University of Bonn and the Sirindhorn Museum in Thailand have identified two new dinosaur species.

Read More: Cheetah News and Cheetah Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.