Science & Tech

Scientists discover that hippos can 'fly' over short distances

Scientists discover that hippos can 'fly' over short distances
Hippos Can Get Airborne At High Speeds
unbranded - Newsworthy / VideoElephant

When you think of animals that become airborne, hippos wouldn't exactly be the first species that comes to mind...

After all, these mammals can weigh up to 1,500 kg for males and 1,300 kg for females.

Nevertheless, researchers at the Royal Veterinary College in North Mymms, Hertfordshire have found after looking at footage of hippos in detail that they do in fact become airborne when they run on land at full speed.

Hippos can reach speeds up to 30 km/h (18.6 mph), and when this occurs, research shows that hippos can briefly get all four feet off the ground simultaneously for up to 15 per cent of the time.

John Hutchinson, a professor of evolutionary biomechanics who led the research described how it was "as simple as biomechanics research can get” but noted the difficulty of studying the hippos for this analysis.

Hippos can briefly become airborne, new research suggestsiStockphoto

“I’ve struggled to get any work done on hippos before because they’re so hard to access,” he said. “They’re incredibly dangerous, they tend to be most active at night, and they spend a lot of their time in the water.”

Previously, the athletic capabilities of hippos have been studied before but there hasn't been any specific analysis looking at if hippos become airborne when running.

So that's when Hutchinson sent student, Emily Pringle, to Flamingo Land resort in North Yorkshire to capture footage of the hippos there as they had the space to gallop and capture the animals moved between their stable and watering hole, the researchers wrote in PeerJ,

These clips were then analysed frame-by-frame alongside similar videos from YouTube to look at whether hippos could simultaneously get all their feet off the ground.

"It’s mind-numbing,” Hutchinson said of carefully studying the videos. “It’s one of the things in my work that I hate the most. It’s really boring. Agonising.”

From this findings, it shows that hippos don't actually run but rather can walk, trot, and gallop. But if they are in a hurry, that's when they can become airborne.

This differs from elephants who don't leave the ground as they have a walking gait whereas hippos most of the time tend to trot as they move their diagonally opposite legs in sync.

Now, the research is focused on a different type of hippo - pygmy hippos - which are thought to be able to gallop, as well as whether baby hippos have any abilities.

“I’m wondering if baby hippos can do something that adult hippos can’t,” Hutchinson added. “That would be pretty neat.”

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