Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

He Can Swim Better Than You; in the Latest in His Series on Striking Images, Our Columnist Looks at the Surprising Variety of Aquatic Wildlife

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

He Can Swim Better Than You; in the Latest in His Series on Striking Images, Our Columnist Looks at the Surprising Variety of Aquatic Wildlife

Article excerpt

Byline: Charles Saatchi

the naked eye EVEN if you happen to be an Olympic swimming gold medallist, an elephant can probably out-swim you. They can manage 20-mile ocean crossings in a day, using their trunks as snorkels, as they swim gracefully from island to island in the Indian Ocean.

While we applaud Olympic goldmedallist Michael Phelps's time of one minute 42 seconds for the 200m freestyle, this is a little tardy compared to a perfectly streamlined sailfish. The fastest marine creatures, they have been clocked at almost 70mph, able to win the 200m race in about 10 seconds. But unlike Mr Phelps a sailfish has the ability to leap in the air, where it moves even swifter than it does in the water, literally flying.

Coming in second place for a silver medal would be a swordfish, a marlin or a yellowfin tuna, at 45-60mph, followed by a killer whale, swimming at 35mph. The killers use their speed to catch other whales as prey, hunting in all the world's oceans from the Arctic and Antarctic regions to warm tropical waters.

Everyone's favourite sea mammal, the dolphin, can reach a speed of 24mph, closely followed, rather surprisingly, by the hefty leatherback turtle. While it is unlikely that an overweight man could win an Olympic swimming title, this correlation does not apply to sea turtles. Recent studies have shown that slender turtles are actually slower than their tubbier cousins.

Apparently, plump turtles are able to get more out of each stroke comparatively "fit" looking turtles move their flippers closer together as they swim, causing them to lose power.

Alongside elephants, there are some other unexpectedly good swimmers in the animal kingdom.

Tigers contradict the general belief that felines tend to dislike water; they are very adaptable and thrive in the wildly differing habitats of freezing Siberian winters, or humid Indonesian tropical forests. …

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