Faster, higher, stronger!

Final designBy Christina Davy

For over a century, the Olympic motto has inspired athletes to challenge the limits of human ability. And since the origin of life on Earth, living organisms have adapted to changing environmental conditions, also becoming faster, stronger, and able to reach new heights. To celebrate Day 2 of the Games, we introduce you to Canadian species with Olympic-level abilities.

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Peregrine Falcon soaring through the air. Photo: “Mike” Michael L. Baird, flickr.bairdphotos.com

Faster:  When a soaring Peregrine Falcon spots prey far below, it dives – and reaches speeds over 300 km/hour, making it the fastest-moving bird in the world. Peregrine Falcons typically nest on cliff edges, but are also found in several large Canadian cities, where they nest on the edges of skyscrapers and soar above rush hour traffic performing stunts that rival those of ski jumpers.

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The tiny Ord’s Kangaroo Rat can jump farther then many humans can. Photo: Dr. Darren Bender.

Higher:  Canada is home to several high-jumping species. These include the tiny, 69 gram Ord’s Kangaroo Rat, which can jump over 2 metres.

 

Image of Castilleja rupicola

Cliff Paintbrush, Castilleja rupicola. Photo: J. Brew.

Canadian species that can’t jump have also reached great heights. If you explore mountains in southern B.C. and make it over 2,000 metres up, you may be lucky enough to see a Cliff Paintbrush. This tiny plant thrives on cliff faces at elevations over 2,000 metres, along with other specialized alpine plant species.

Stronger:    Wolverines typically weigh only 35-60 lb, but they can take down moose weighing over eight times their own weight. They can single-handedly chase larger predators (including wolf packs) from their kills. Wolverines are still found in central and western Canada – but despite their incredible strength, they are likely extirpated (locally extinct) in Quebec and Newfoundland.

These species’ abilities differ, but they share something too: they are all listed under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA). The threats they face include habitat loss, climate change, over-harvesting and disease, and it will take a collaborative effort by conservation biologists and Canadian citizens to ensure a future for the Canadian populations of these incredible organisms.

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