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Evidence Of “Flying” Hippos

Hippo "flying" in the air. Image screenshot on Youtube. Hippos can run so fast they "glide through the air", according to a new study, BBC News.

Move over, Dumbo—there’s a new flying sensation in the animal kingdom! UK researchers have discovered that hippos, known for their bulk and strength, can become airborne during their high-speed trots. This fascinating study from the Royal Veterinary College provides surprising insights into hippo locomotion and their remarkable ability to defy gravity.

Hippos Aren’t Just Heavyweights

angry hippo
Hippo running. Image via Depositphotos

When we think of hippos, we usually picture them lazing in water or trotting on land. But new research has revealed that these hefty animals can actually become airborne. That’s right—hippos can fly, in a manner of speaking.

The Science Behind the Discovery

Hippo Family
A hippo family. Image by depositphotos.

Researchers from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in the UK have conducted an in-depth study of hippo movement. They collected video footage from various sources, including Flamingo Land Resort and online clips. This extensive dataset included 169 locomotion cycles from 32 individual hippos.

Trotting Like Champions

Hippo “flying” in the air. Image screenshot on Youtube. Hippos can run so fast they “glide through the air”, according to a new study, BBC News.

Unlike many other large land animals, hippos almost exclusively trot when they move. This includes both their slow walks and faster runs. This unique gait is a key part of what allows them to become airborne.

Getting Airborne

Hippos
Hippos in a lake. Image by Art Tower via Pixabay

The researchers found that when hippos trot at high speeds, their feet leave the ground for up to 0.3 seconds at a time. This means that for about 15% of their stride, hippos are literally flying. It’s a surprising and impressive feat for such large animals.

Comparing Hippos to Other Giants

baby elephant takes on hippo
Photo by @Animal-lover-on-Safari via YouTube

In comparison, elephants never get all four feet off the ground simultaneously, even when they “run.” Rhinos, on the other hand, can gallop, but they still don’t get airborne like hippos do. This places hippos in a unique category among large land animals. Although they are water animals, hippos don’t swim.

Challenges in Studying Hippos

Hippopotamus, hippopotamus amphibius, Large Group at Virunga Park in Congo

Studying hippos is no easy task. These animals are not only massive but also very dangerous. They tend to stay in water and are rarely trained for research, making this study all the more significant. Hippos have shown protective behaviors towards wildebeest during a crocodile attack.

Practical Applications

hippo one of the most dangerous animals
Image via Pixabay

The findings from this study are not just interesting—they have practical applications. Understanding hippo movement can help improve zoo enclosures and animal care. It also provides valuable insights into the biomechanics of large animals.

Evolutionary Insights

Hippo
Hippo peeping above water. Image by Designerpoint via Pixabay

This research contributes to our understanding of the evolutionary biomechanics of hippo lineages. It shows how different large animals have adapted their movements to their environments and physical constraints.

Research Methodology

Hippo in the national park
Hippopotamus in Chobe National Park. Image via Bernard Gagnon, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The research was led by Professor John Hutchinson and former undergraduate student Emily Pringle. They used video analysis to study the hippos’ footfall patterns and stride parameters. This method allowed them to capture detailed data on how hippos move.

Zoo Collaboration

hippos yawning
Image Credit: Chris Stenger; Unsplash

The collaboration with Flamingo Land Resort was crucial for this study. The zoo provided access to hippos and their movements, helping researchers gather valuable data. This partnership highlights the importance of zoos in scientific research.

Future Research Directions

baby elephant takes on hippo
Photo by @Animal-lover-on-Safari via YouTube

The study opens up new avenues for research into hippo locomotion. Future studies could explore other aspects of hippo movement and behavior. This could further enhance our understanding of these fascinating animals.

Broader Implications

Baby Hippo Meets A Hippo for the First Time.
Fat baby Hippo. Image via Depositphotos

The findings have broader implications for the study of animal locomotion. They challenge our assumptions about what large land animals can do. This research could lead to new discoveries about other species as well.

Improving Animal Care

Baby Hippo Forced to Abandon his Dead Mother

Understanding how hippos move can help veterinarians diagnose and treat movement problems in these animals. It can also guide improvements in zoo husbandry and enclosure design. Better understanding means better care for these incredible creatures.

Contributing to Science

Hippo
Hippo in the distance. Image by Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz via Pexels.

This study is a significant contribution to the field of evolutionary biomechanics. It demonstrates how simple observations can lead to groundbreaking discoveries. It’s a reminder of the wonders of the natural world and the importance of scientific curiosity. Watch this video for more interesting hippo facts.

Wrapping Up

hippo
Hippo baring their teeth as they devour some grass. Image by 16692474 via Pixabay

So, the next time you think of hippos, remember—they’re not just heavyweights; they’re also capable of brief flights. This surprising discovery showcases the incredible adaptability and capabilities of one of the largest land animals on Earth. Hippos can indeed “fly,” adding yet another fascinating layer to our understanding of these magnificent creatures.

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Hippo
Hippo peeping above water. Image by Designerpoint via Pixabay

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