Just like the Team GB athletes, many of our native animals have astonishing athletic abilities. With the Opening Ceremony of the Rio Olympics screening just hours after the first episode of our Highlands – Scotland’s Wild Heart series (which starts 9pm, Friday 5th August on BBC Two), we took a look at how Britain’s wild record-breakers measure up to their human counterparts.
WEIGHT LIFTING – OSPREY
These fish-eating birds of prey are superbly adapted for a powerful lift. Their wings contain more feathers than other large predatory birds and are longer with a higher arch. This gives the wings enormous strength allowing the Osprey to carry fish that weigh up to 2 kilograms and match the birds’ weight for weight.
Osprey don’t quite match Olympian weightlifters (some of the record-holders lift nearly five times their own body weight) but for a British bird you can’t say it’s not impressive – and those fish are darn slippery!
MARATHON – REINDEER
The standard marathon, a mere 26 miles (42.195 kilometres), would be a breeze for a Reindeer. With their strong, powerful legs and stocky build, these animals are perfectly evolved for long-distance travel. A radio-collared female Alaskan Caribou (the Reindeer’s closely related North American cousin) was tracked migrating over 5,000km in a single year. This makes the Alaskan Caribou the most well travelled land animal in the world!
Thanks to our friends at the Cairngorms Reindeer Herd for these facts.
DIVING – GUILLEMOT
Though they certainly wouldn’t win points for their flight or entry, guillemot chicks – aka ‘jumplings’ – make a death-defying leap from the cliff-ledges where they were raised down to the sea at just three weeks old. With tiny, unformed wings they have little control as they leap from 400 foot sea cliffs, dwarfing a 33ft diving platform. And they synchronise - the chicks all jump around the same time at dusk as there's safety in numbers and this allows individuals to avoid predation.
gymnastics - red squirrels
Red squirrels spend nearly 90% of their lives in the treetops and their superbly adapted to climb and leap with acrobatic flair! Their long hind limbs are evolved for leaping and their double-jointed ankles can turn their feet through 180° allowing them to move down a tree head first. As for that big fluffy tail - it's nearly the same length as their entire body and provides excellent balance.
HIGH JUMP – SALMON
Javier Sotomayor (Cuba) set the current high jump Olympic record, with a jump of 2.45 metres in 1993. However, here in Scotland, Atlantic salmon, measuring just a third of Sotomayor’s size, have been recorded leaping over falls of 3.7m! The fish make these leaps regularly on their 2,000-mile migration from the ocean to their spawning grounds. For that, we give them gold!
Don't forget to tune in to Highlands - Scotland's Wild Heart, starting 9pm, Friday 5th August on BBC Two and the Rio Olympics 2016 Opening Ceremony, which starts just after at 11:40pm on BBC One.