A study conducted by scientists from the Royal Veterinary College in England has unveiled a discovery about one of the world’s largest land mammals, the common hippopotamus. Despite their massive size and weight, hippos can become airborne while running with all four feet off the ground for up to 15% of the time.

Hippopotamus Can Fly, A Study Unveils that it Can Become Airborne

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The research was by John Hutchinson, a professor of evolutionary biomechanics who aimed to fill the gaps in scientific knowledge about hippo movement.

Basic information on Hippopotamus locomotion has been sparse and often contradictory. Hutchinson and his team sought to analyze the footfall patterns and stride parameters of hippos to determine if they ever experience an aerial phase while running similar to other large land animals.

To gather data the researchers analyzed both online videos and new footage collected from zoo hippos. A total of 169 strides from 32 individual hippos were examined.

The team also utilized footage from Flamingo Land resort in North Yorkshire, where hippos have ample space to run.

The analysis involved reviewing videos frame by frame to capture the precise moments when hippos became airborne.

Scientists at RVC have found that hippos can leave the ground for brief periods. This research plans to improve the understanding of how large animals move on land.

Hippopotamus are the second heaviest land animals following elephants. They can weigh up to 3,600 kilograms. Hippopotamus predominantly trot enabling them to gain more momentum.

The study involved video analysis of hippos at the Flamingo Land Resort in Yorkshire, England. Researchers observed hippos in their paddock.

Hippopotamus can stay airborne for up to 0.3 seconds when moving at high speeds. This is a big duration for such large animals. Hippos use a unique trotting gait with diagonally opposite legs moving in sync.

Understanding hippo locomotion can aid in reconstructing the evolutionary biomechanics of their lineage. It provides insights into how the size of large animals influences their movement on land.

The research can help veterinarians diagnose and monitor hippos with movement issues or lameness. Improved husbandry and enclosure designs in zoos can result from these findings.

The study is timely given the status of common hippos and the endangered status of pygmy Hippopotamus. Our understanding of Hippopotamus locomotion can contribute to their conservation efforts.

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Researchers sifted through YouTube videos and frame-by-frame analysis to observe hippo movements. They noted that hippos lift all four feet off the ground simultaneously up to 15% of the time when running at full speed.

Unlike elephants which maintain a walking pace even at high speed and rhinos, which can walk, trot, and gallop, Hippopotamus stick to trotting. This trotting gait is unique and allows them to become briefly airborne.

The study revealed that at their fastest speeds, hippos can achieve brief aerial phases spending up to 15% of their running time completely off the ground.

Hippopotamus can reach speeds of up to 19 mph (30 km/h). This high speed is often utilized to evade predators such as lions, rhinoceroses and humans.

The study positioned hippos between elephants and rhinos in terms of athletic abilities. Unlike elephants which always keep at least one foot on the ground even at high speeds and rhinos, which can gallop, Hippopotamus typically use a trotting gait but can briefly leave the ground when running at full speed.

Understanding Hippopotamus locomotion helps scientists piece together the evolutionary biomechanics of large land animals.

The data can be crucial for clinical veterinary care in assessing and diagnosing lameness in Hippopotamus. By establishing a baseline for normal hippo movement. Veterinarians can better detect abnormalities.

Zoos can use these findings to improve the care and enclosure designs for hippos. Monitoring Hippopotamus physical conditions can help in early detection of health issues.

Hippopotamus are notoriously difficult to work with due to their aggressive nature and nocturnal habits. They are also most active in water, which complicates direct observation.

Hutchinson noted the nature of the research especially the frame-by-frame video analysis which he described as “mind-numbing.”

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