We’re gearing up for the 2nd annual Run for the Fund, and all this talk about physical fitness and ability got us thinking about some of the incredible athletic adaptations animals have that help them compete in the everyday “game” of survival. They rely on these adaptations to help them find food, reproduce, move, and communicate with other animals.
Aquatic animals, like most of the animals you’ll meet at SeaWorld, have many adaptations that help them perform feats worthy of athletic recognition. For instance, marine mammals have flippers, fins, and flukes, which are an advantage for strong swimming and diving. Penguins have flipper-like wings which allow them to swim fast and jump forcefully out of the water. River otters have short but strong legs, enabling them to run quickly on land. Animals have unique adaptations, that when tied to a behavior, are reminiscent of our favorite sports. Let’s take a look at some fun examples:
Animal Athlete: Rockhopper Penguin
Stats: 16-18 inches tall; 5-6 lbs
Sport: High Jump
To escape predators, rockhopper penguins are natural high jumpers. They can jump three to four feet out of the water onto the rocks and ice of the Sub-Antarctic shoreline.
Animal Athlete: Killer Whales
Stats: males – 19-23 feet long; 8,000 – 12,000 lbs; females – 16-19 feet long; 3,000 – 8,000 lbs
Sport: Competitive Swimming
One of the fastest swimming marine mammals, killer whales normally cruise at speeds of two to six miles per hour, but when hunting, they can reach speeds of up to 30mph.
Animal Athlete: North American River Otter
Stats: 3-4 feet long; 10-25 lbs
River otters can travel several miles over land to reach other streams or lakes. When on land, these relatively small animals can run quite fast, up to 18 mph. Because of their high metabolic rate, river otters also eat a significant amount of food, up to 15-20% of their body weight per day. If we ate as much as an otter, a 150 pound person would have to eat 30 pounds of food, or about 120 hamburgers a day!
Animal Athlete: Pacific Walrus
Stats: males – 9-12 feet long; 1,764 – 3,748 lbs; females – 7.5 – 10 feet long; 882 – 2,756 lbs
Both male and female walruses have elongated upper canine teeth called tusks. Tusks are used to fence with other walruses when establishing dominance in a herd.
Animal Athlete: Leatherback Sea Turtle
Stats: four to six feet long; 441 – 1,116 lbs
Leatherback sea turtles are excellent divers. When seeking jellyfish, they routinely dive more than 1000 feet below the surface. They may reach depths of more than 3,900 feet.
Animal Athlete: Bottlenose Dolphin
Stats: 8-10 feet long; 300-600 lbs
Sport: Synchronized Swimming
Bottlenose dolphins are social animals and travel in groups called pods. Dolphins “team” swim to encircle and eat large schools of fish. “Duet” swimming occurs between mother and calf. The calf stays close and is carried by the mother’s slip stream.
Animal Athlete: California Sea Lion
Stats: males – 6.5- 8 feet long; 440 – 880 lbs; females – 5-6.5 feet long; 110 – 240 lbs
California sea lions are agile aquatic gymnasts. Their playful routines include underwater flips, somersaults, twists, body surfing, and wrestling. They are nimble both in and out of the water.
Curious about more amazing animal adaptations? Visit SeaWorld’s animal information website by clicking here.
Have you signed up for Run for the Fund yet? Your registration fee includes free admission to the park, a chance to meet animal ambassadors, a private Shamu show, and lots of other fun and unique activities. Last year we raised over $20,000 for the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. With your help, this year we can make an even bigger contribution to helping animals in need around the world.