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  #1  
Old 10-10-2000, 05:42 PM
Speaker for the Dead Speaker for the Dead is offline
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Sloths (to my knowledge) can swim.

But I was wondering, what about birds? They're animals, and I doubt a sparrow (example) could do a breast stroke really well. Prove me right/wrong!

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Edit by CKDextHavn: Link to the Mailbag Answer being discussed: Is the camel the only animal that cannot swim?

[Edited by CKDextHavn on 10-11-2000 at 07:33 AM]
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  #2  
Old 10-10-2000, 05:46 PM
JillGat JillGat is offline
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I guess we may have to differentiate here between "swimming" and "not drowning." Most birds can stay afloat for a little while from what I've seen, but I don't think sparrows would win any awards in synchronized swimming.
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Old 10-10-2000, 06:00 PM
Sterra Sterra is offline
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They can move around and stay afloat, thats swimming.

As for the gorilla thing gorilla babys will drown while human babys will stay afloat.(no dont ask me how they tested this)
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  #4  
Old 10-10-2000, 06:00 PM
qwerty_uiop qwerty_uiop is offline
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Ummmm.....the question was, "Is it true that the only animal that cannot swim is a camel?"

I can think of a lot of 'em. Fish come to mind....
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  #5  
Old 10-10-2000, 06:53 PM
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I think you read the question wrong, qwerty. The question is asking if camels are the only animals that cannot swim. Fish would be on a list of animals that can swim.
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  #6  
Old 10-10-2000, 07:01 PM
qwerty_uiop qwerty_uiop is offline
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Oops. I guess that damned Evelyn Wood thing didn't pay off.
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  #7  
Old 10-10-2000, 07:57 PM
derek derek is offline
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Re: Can Camels Swim?

The comment about sloths and swimming rang a bell. I recalled something from my mis-spent youth, hanging about libraries.

So, I dug into the Archives here (Yeah, we all have our own), and pulled out an old copy of The Land And Wildlife of South America, By Marston Bates and The Editors of Life, from the Life Nature Library, copyright 1964.

On Page 190 of this august tome, I note a full page color photograph of a swimming sloth. A good part of this sloth's body is above the waterline - it appears that the sloth may well be more bouyant than a human. It may be my imagination, but I could swear the thing is smiling, too. The caption reads as follows:

"The Awkward Sloth, called the Nimble Peter by derisive Spaniards, never leaves the trees unless it absolutely has to. But when forced out by floods, it floats and flaps its way along. In fact it is almost impossible to drown a sloth. Totally immersed for 30 minutes, they will still revive - possibly because their slow metabolism rate requires less oxygen in their blood."

IIRC, sloth regularly leave the trees, in a slow and laborious fashion, to defecate and bury their scat. (My goodness, I wonder if there's a correct term for sloth poop. Fewmets? naaaah.) If they did not do so, it has been said, their slow rate of movement would allow predators to more easily spot them by the piles of dung under the sloth trees.

I currently do not have a reference for that, however.

So there you have it - The Sloth swims, albeit not as gracefully as other animals might.

-Derek
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  #8  
Old 10-10-2000, 09:32 PM
gillygirl gillygirl is offline
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Quote:
One website I found said, "the long-nosed armadillo of South America is the only armadillo species that can swim, inflating its stomach and intestine with air to improve buoyancy." Couldn't find any more proof that the other types can't, though. Any uh y'all Okies care to drop a seven-banded armadillo in a lake for me?
According to a National Geographic Society Book I have ("Wild Animals of North America")
Quote:
The only edentate found in the United States is the common long-nosed armadillo of the family Dasypodidae...which has been given the scientific name Dasypus novemcinctus.
...or was she just joking about something and I missed it?
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  #9  
Old 10-10-2000, 11:01 PM
don Jaime don Jaime is offline
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I'd be proud to drop a 'dillo in a lake for you, Jill, if I ever see one alive. But then, I saw my first live raccoon and skunk in the past month, so I suppose 'dillos are next up.
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  #10  
Old 10-10-2000, 11:27 PM
JillGat JillGat is offline
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Gilly, I would blame this screw up on Ed Zotti, but then I should have known I couldn't depend on him to catch it. Ed doesn't even know how to spell "armadillos." Cecil, however, did write an interesting column on armadillos and leprosy once: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/990219.html

The armadillo found in the southeastern US is most commonly called the "Nine banded armadillo" (scientific name Dasypus novemcinctus); not the Seven banded armadillo (Dasypus septemcinctus), which is found only in South America. (Though, in my feeble defense, I have heard that Nine-banded armadillos can have from six to 11 moveable bands, depending on what part of their range they're found in, but that's no real excuse to mess up the name). And yes, the US species is also called the "common long nosed armadillo." The nine banded armadillo actually originated in South America and didn't arrive in Texas until about 1880, though prehistoric armadillos roamed here. Its range continues to expand. In South America you can also find the six-banded armadillo or peludo (Euphractus sexcinctus); the three-banded armadillo, or apar (Tolypeutes t. cinctus); the giant armadillo (Priodontes giganteus), and the pink fairy armadillo (Chlamyphoras truncatus) (not to be confused with the fairy penguin of Australia) among other South American species.

And yes, the Nine-banded armadillo can swim, so you Okies can forego the experimentin' and go back to drinking beer at Pauline's Bait and Tackle Shop. - Jill
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  #11  
Old 10-11-2000, 12:07 AM
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Okies?

I refrained from responding the first time Jill posted this slur, but the second time is too much. According to John Steinbeck, Okies were the people that left Oklahoma and moved to New Mexico during the dust bowl, raising the average IQ in both states.

PUN
And I don't want to hear about Dewey Bartlett.
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  #12  
Old 10-11-2000, 12:12 AM
JillGat JillGat is offline
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Having lived in Oklahoma - where the many of the natives refer to themselves as such - I meant it affectionately. Chill, PUN.
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  #13  
Old 10-11-2000, 06:03 AM
MrSlam MrSlam is offline
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Sloths

Sloths can swim. I remember watching the Animal Channel one day, and they were showing a Sloth swimming. Not only can they swim, but they are very good at it as well! The clip I watched was that of a mother who had fallen from a tree. Her baby clung to her back as she slowly swam across the water to reach for a low hanging branch.
As with all nature shows, the Sloth of course was being chased by a predator, some sort of a snake. She seemed to swim rather fast, the most suspenseful part being how slowly she climbed the low hanging branch, as the snake quickly gained on her.

I really have to wonder just how often these predators are chasing the prey the camara men are recording though. Ever notice sometimes you don't even see both Predator & Prey in the same scene? Hmmm...
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  #14  
Old 10-11-2000, 11:24 AM
Notorioustobias Notorioustobias is offline
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Well, if it's animals that can't swim...a whole lot of insects come to mind...butterflies, ants etc. I don't think a bat could swim..probably not a chicken...a snail...some rodents possibly (is a bat a mammal? how about a squirrel?) ...some types of snakes...maybe kangaroos. In terms of mammals...giraffes? I would think that if they were in water deeper than their head (not a very likely scenario) they would have trouble staying afloat and balanced....elephants are hard to visualize as well.
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  #15  
Old 10-11-2000, 12:14 PM
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bats can swim...

When I was about 7, I tried to rescue an injured bat from some pre-teen/teenage boys who were trying to kill it by throwing rocks at it. I scooped it into a coffee can (without touching it - bat bites can be pretty nasty you know, not to mention possible fleas/mites!), fashioned a lid for the can with a paper plate and some string (all found at the lakeside). But one of the boys took the can from me and threw it in the lake. One of the kids finally grew some compassion and helped me fish the can out of the lake - when we looked in, the bat was pissed as hell, but was swimming quite handily, staying afloat in the can (it couldn't grip the sides). (Little brown bat, I think - maybe western pipistrelle? If that is spelled right...)

Anyway, the rest of the boys still got the bat away from me and killed it. It had a torn wing (owl, possibly), and might not have made it anyway, though since my dad was a microbiologist who was researching BATS (we'd had them at home a lot, hibernating in the refrigerator), I figured if I could get it home, it had a chance... My mom had helped rescue other bats before, too (mostly involving giving them a launching pad above the ground). I cried for hours. Still infuriates me.

If you read descriptions of bat flight, you may note that it is described as more of a 'swimming' motion than a 'flapping' motion. The musculature and bone structure works the same way in water - lift on angle forward and up, scoop high over the surface, press down in front, pull down and back, and lift again. Bat butterfly stroke, as it were. Not that you'd see many bats swimming for fun, but at least one species of bat can swim.
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  #16  
Old 10-11-2000, 12:59 PM
johnnygeneric johnnygeneric is offline
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US Armadillos can swin with the best of them

An engineer here in Texas told me of an incident on a ranch he visited. The host took an armadillo and gently put it in a pond. It swam.

Then the host took the same armadillo, swung it around his head a few times, and before my friend could say anything, the armadillo was in the middle of the pond, flailing for it's life, drowning shortly thereafter.

Yes, US armadillos can swim.

JohnnyG

Quote:
Originally posted by gillygirl
Quote:
One website I found said, "the long-nosed armadillo of South America is the only armadillo species that can swim, inflating its stomach and intestine with air to improve buoyancy." Couldn't find any more proof that the other types can't, though. Any uh y'all Okies care to drop a seven-banded armadillo in a lake for me?
According to a National Geographic Society Book I have ("Wild Animals of North America")
Quote:
The only edentate found in the United States is the common long-nosed armadillo of the family Dasypodidae...which has been given the scientific name Dasypus novemcinctus.
...or was she just joking about something and I missed it?
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  #17  
Old 10-11-2000, 01:31 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Can camels swim?

As several others have remarked, sloths, especially the three-toed variety, are competent, if extremely slow, swimmers. They are regularly found well offshore in large lakes and at sea. What exactly possesses a sloth to take to water, on the other hand, is one of several abiding mysteries of sloth psychology. (In most cases it's surely not because they're being "chased" by a snake!)

Regarding primates, gorillas in captivity are notorious for being prone to drowning in even a few feet of water, though I'm skeptical of the center-of-gravity argument.

Obviously many kinds of birds can swim. Aside from ducks, penguins and others too numerous to mention, even ostriches are reputed to be capable of making headway in the water. On the other hand, most small land birds such as sparrows would rapidly be doomed by a dip in the drink. Although their outer feathers shed rain and bird-bath water well enough, an immersion of any length of time would soon waterlog them (aquatic birds have more durable waterproofing), causing the loss of so much body heat they would die of hypothermia. However, one small bird that can "swim" quite well underwater (using its wings for propulsion) is the Dipper.

Most land birds that are capable of flight would devote all their energy to trying to fly up out of the water rather than even trying to swim, so the question is somewhat moot. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if a chicken might not be capable of swimming if it set its "mind" (so to speak) to it, but I expect it would simply thrash around until it became waterlogged. Some chicken-shaped birds such as gallinules lack webbed feet but are quite capable of swimming. Any observations of swimming chickens?

Very interesting post about the swimming bat. I would have guessed they couldn't.

Most, if not all, snakes are excellent swimmers.

The thought of a giraffe trying to make headway in the water indeed rather boggles the mind. Anyone care to try throwing one in?
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  #18  
Old 10-11-2000, 02:17 PM
JillGat JillGat is offline
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[[However, one small bird that can "swim" quite well underwater (using its wings for propulsion) is the Dipper.]]

The water ouzel!
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Old 10-11-2000, 03:36 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Can camels swim?

Quite right, Water Ouzel is the Brit name for Dipper. There are five species in all, including the American Dipper of western North America.
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  #20  
Old 10-11-2000, 05:17 PM
JillGat JillGat is offline
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We call em Ouzels here in New Mexico. It's a tiny bird that lands on a rock then dives in and swims aways down (or up) stream before popping up again. It's really something to see.
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  #21  
Old 10-11-2000, 05:54 PM
andros andros is offline
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This is a blatant hijack, but I never realized you live in the Land of Entrapment, Jill. Place of my birth and still first in my heart (and based on my recent shipment from Hatch, first in my freezer). I knew I liked you for a reason.
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  #22  
Old 10-11-2000, 08:14 PM
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We actually covered this once before, and while I don't know if we made any progress on giraffes, it's certain that elephants can swim.
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  #23  
Old 10-11-2000, 09:46 PM
JillGat JillGat is offline
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Will let you know on the giraffes (back to the drawing board..)
- Jill
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  #24  
Old 10-11-2000, 10:00 PM
JillGat JillGat is offline
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According to several University and zoo websites, giraffes CANNOT SWIM. So add that to the list. I have not yet confirmed this with a live human being, though. (You know, I can't picture them swimming at all.) - Jill
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  #25  
Old 10-12-2000, 07:08 AM
RM Mentock RM Mentock is offline
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Re: Okies?

Quote:
Originally posted by PUNdit
According to John Steinbeck, Okies were the people that left Oklahoma and moved to New Mexico during the dust bowl, raising the average IQ in both states.
Steinbeck said they raised the IQ in both states?

"And I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee,
a place where even squares can have a ball.
We still wave ol' glory down at the courthouse,
and white lightning's still the biggest thrill of all.
In Muskogee, Oklahoma, U.S.A." - Merle Haggard
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  #26  
Old 10-12-2000, 10:10 AM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Can camels swim?

Yup, Dippers were one of my favorite birds when I lived in Colorado. (I never heard anyone call it a Water Ouzel there, though). They not only "fly" underwater, they also stroll around on the bottom clutching the pebbles with their feet against the current. The name is not so much from their "taking a dip" in the water, but from their constant bobbing up and down while above the surface. They have a lovely song as well.
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  #27  
Old 10-12-2000, 06:54 PM
yabob yabob is offline
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Quote:
One website I found said, "the long-nosed armadillo of South America is the only armadillo species that can swim, inflating its stomach and intestine with air to improve buoyancy."
This swimming technique for (nine-banded, rather than long-nosed) armadillos seems to be documented many places, along with the idea that it sometimes doesn't bother, because it can hold its breath for something like six minutes and walk along the bottom.

Which, I suppose, makes it the only animal in danger of drowning if it farts.

What I want to know, is when it walks along the bottom, how does it know the creek or whatever is narrow enough for it to make it across in under six minutes? I don't think they have very good eyesight.

Presumably it does this to get to someplace where it can give birth to its litter of identical quadraplets or die of leprosy. Provided it doesn't jump straight up in the air and impale itself on the front of a Kenworth on the way. Wierd creatures.
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  #28  
Old 10-13-2000, 01:10 PM
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For sure, crickets cannot swim. Every fall, my house gets invaded by crickets moving indoors in search of warmth and moisture, and I have a merry time catching and evicting them. Once in a while, one will get into my kitchen sink and, if I've left a dirty dish full of water to soak, I'll often discover the drowned corpse floating in the middle, unable to get out of even a shallow plate of water.
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  #29  
Old 10-13-2000, 01:50 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Can camels swim?

Just as a clarification, the common names "Nine-banded" and "Long-nosed" Armadillo often are used to refer to the same beast, Dasypus novemcinctus, ranging from the southern US to Argentina, the familiar armadillo of Texas and Florida. The term "long-nosed" armadillo is sometimes also used as a general term to refer to all the species of the genus Dasypus, which in fact have longer pointier snouts than other 'dillos. There are about six species in the genus (depending on who's counting). The best known besides the Nine-banded is the Seven-banded Armadillo, Dasypus septemcinctus, of southern South America. As an example, one field guide, Louise Emmon's "Neotropical Rainforest Mammals," calls them the "Nine-banded Long-nosed Armadillo" and the "Seven-banded Long-nosed Armadillo" respectively. So "the long-nosed armadillo of South America" could refer to a number of different species.

Given the general similarity of build and physiology of armadillos, it would be surprising if the other species in the family couldn't swim just as well as a Nine-banded.
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  #30  
Old 10-13-2000, 02:45 PM
Arnold Winkelried Arnold Winkelried is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Notorioustobias
Well, if it's animals that can't swim....elephants are hard to visualize as well.
As Chronos' excellent memory can attest, we covered this subject before, and yes, it seems that elephants can swim.

can elephants really swim?

The thread also discusses the swimming capabilities of other animals.
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  #31  
Old 10-13-2000, 04:34 PM
Kyberneticist Kyberneticist is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by TRH
For sure, crickets cannot swim. Every fall, my house gets invaded by crickets moving indoors in search of warmth and moisture, and I have a merry time catching and evicting them. Once in a while, one will get into my kitchen sink and, if I've left a dirty dish full of water to soak, I'll often discover the drowned corpse floating in the middle, unable to get out of even a shallow plate of water.
Ok, I'm confused. Was the original question really asking about all Animalia? Or just Chordata? Or just Mammalia?
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  #32  
Old 10-13-2000, 05:16 PM
RM Mentock RM Mentock is offline
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Let's see, the title of the link in the OP is "Is the camel the only animal that can't swim?"
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  #33  
Old 10-15-2000, 01:17 PM
Kyberneticist Kyberneticist is offline
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Hm. Let's check the dictionary.
Animal
1 : any of a kingdom (Animalia) of living things including
many-celled organisms and often many of the single-celled ones (as protozoans) that typically differ
from plants in having cells without cellulose walls, in
lacking chlorophyll and the capacity for photosynthesis,
in requiring more complex food materials (as proteins), in being organized to a greater degree of complexity, and in having the capacity for spontaneous movement and rapid motor responses to stimulation.
2 a : one of the lower animals as distinguished from
human beings b : MAMMAL; broadly : VERTEBRATE

So the question still holds.
Is it definition 1 (Animalia)
or definition 2a (Mammalia or Chordata)

Personally I think the question is more interesting for Mammalia. There are a lot of insects which can't swim.
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  #34  
Old 10-15-2000, 01:45 PM
RM Mentock RM Mentock is offline
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Whoa. Dueling dictionaries. Which one is that? My American Heritage Dictionary has:

an·i·mal n. 1. A multicellular organism of the kingdom Animalia, differing from plants in certain typical characteristics such as capacity for locomotion, nonphotosynthetic metabolism, pronounced response to stimuli, restricted growth, and fixed bodily structure. 2. An animal organism other than a human being, especially a mammal. 3. A person who behaves in a bestial or brutish manner. 4. A human being considered with respect to his or her physical, as opposed to spiritual, nature. 5. A person having a specified aptitude or set of interests: “that rarest of musical animals,...
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  #35  
Old 10-15-2000, 06:07 PM
Michael Price Michael Price is offline
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Re: Can Camels Swim?

Sorry, folks, this is gonna be kind of long, but this personal observation establishes fershure that eagles swim.

One summer evening in 1997 I was cycling the ring-road around the University of British Columbia in Vancouver BC Canada, and stopped for a breather at a viewpoint above the mouth of the North Arm of the Fraser River. Below was a wide, slow-running river with many log-booms and high dolphins, and a long slough along its southern bank. A small flock of grebes was in a small bayou along the opposite river-bank. An adult Bald Eagle--a common resident and abundant wintering raptor in Vancouver, by the way--planed in and began diving on the grebes, which would escape it by diving. The eagle's hunting technique for seabirds is simple: force them to dive many times and eventually they become exhausted, then the next time they come up to breathe, the eagle can pick it off the surface as gracefully as a head waiter scooping up a twenty. After several attempts to snare a grebe in its talons, the eagle bashed whole-body into the water with a huge splash, then just floated there, its wings outstretched on the water. Uh-oh, I thought. It has just come Face To Face With The Consequences Of Its Own Carelessness. What now?

The eagle rested on the water for perhaps a full minute. I began to think about finding a telephone from which to call the Coast Guard to see if they'd do a rescue-and-rehab mission, make some good ink for them, but the nearest phone would be a couple of miles away. Knowing that Bald Eagles are sea-eagles, I figured they'd have this situation come up now and then and wondered what their response to total immersion would be, so I decided to watch for a while. The eagle, not looking very majestic at this point, began this slow, ungainly butterfly stroke like an arthritic old ex-Olympian trying to recollect former glories and set its course for the closest dolphin some two hundred meters away. It reached the pole--and kept on swimming. Fine, I thought, it's heading for the log-boom about another two hundred meters further on. It eventually reached it. And kept on swimming, resting every few minutes. Certainly, the sight of it whomping its great wings into the water with each stroke offered a different look at an animal we normally think of in terms of power and grace, like seeing Fred Astaire lurching along the street in low-rider jeans and high-top too-bigs.

The eagle flopped another several hundred meters, passing many likely haul-out places. By now, it had become medium twilight--heck, it's getting dark, for pete's sake--and I'm *really* becoming concerned about this bird. I begin to make plans to cycle the couple of miles or so to the nearest telephone to make that rescue call. Suddenly the eagle stopped, reared back and took off from the water vertically with one or two powerful wingbeats, and back into regular flight.

From the time of first immersion to lift-off, the eagle was in the water--and I timed this--*forty-seven* minutes. It covered a distance I estimated at nearly three-quarters of a kilometer, or nearly half a mile, entirely on the surface of the water. As its easy take-off showed, it was clearly in no distress at any time: far from being in trouble, the eagle was there because it wanted to be, and did what it did because it wanted to do it.

Why? I don't know. I know eagles aren't the brightest lights in the birds' intellectual firmament, but it must have had its reason. Perhaps it was still lugging a grebe it had caught in its final attack. Maybe it was doing something sensible such as using this as a way of dislodging parasites, a sort of extended hygienic bath. But I like to think that it just wanted to, just for the hell of it, a long swim before dark, and bed-time. I've seen something similar twice, perhaps involving the same bird, but never for anywhere near so long or for so far. I also heard anecdotal confirmation of this behavior from a salmon fisherman who was crossing the Strait of Georgia (about 30 km, or 20 mi wide at that point), and found an adult Bald Eagle similarly splayed out floating on the swells in mid-Strait. Likewise, he thought it in distress only to watch the bird blast off from the water vertically.

For any sea-eagle (genus Haliaeetus), this is probably pretty routine; it's just that they don't do it often. I'd not expect it from a Golden Eagle (genus Aquila), a bird of broken, dry habitats, or from other terrestrial raptors. But I've had to learn the hard way that one should never say never when it comes to animal behavior.
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  #36  
Old 10-15-2000, 07:04 PM
Kyberneticist Kyberneticist is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by RM Mentock
Whoa. Dueling dictionaries. Which one is that? My American Heritage Dictionary has:

an·i·mal n. 1. A multicellular organism of the kingdom Animalia, differing from plants in certain typical characteristics such as capacity for locomotion, nonphotosynthetic metabolism, pronounced response to stimuli, restricted growth, and fixed bodily structure. 2. An animal organism other than a human being, especially a mammal. 3. A person who behaves in a bestial or brutish manner. 4. A human being considered with respect to his or her physical, as opposed to spiritual, nature. 5. A person having a specified aptitude or set of interests: ?that rarest of musical animals,...
Not really dueling. I used Merriam-Webster's
You'll note definition 1 of your AH dict is same as MW's. Definition 2 is pretty close to MW's definition 2a.
And I think you can infer that from the fact there was no 2b given, that I trimmed all definitions that didn't seem relevant to the discussion in question. Including ones similar to 3,4,5 of AH.
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  #37  
Old 10-15-2000, 07:37 PM
JillGat JillGat is offline
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Cool eagle story. (How long you been waiting for a thread like this??) I saw a bald eagle just this morning, above the Rio Grande in New Mexico.
- Jill
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  #38  
Old 10-15-2000, 09:19 PM
RM Mentock RM Mentock is offline
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Bald eagles? They're so common around here that Jessie Helms is considering an open season.

Quote:
Originally posted by Kyberneticist
And I think you can infer that from the fact there was no 2b given, that I trimmed all definitions that didn't seem relevant to the discussion in question. Including ones similar to 3,4,5 of AH.
I thought you did give a 2b--that that was the point of contention, even.
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  #39  
Old 10-16-2000, 12:38 AM
Kyberneticist Kyberneticist is offline
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my bad.

you're right.
So does this mean you're going to help settle which the original question was intended to be about?
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  #40  
Old 10-16-2000, 01:50 AM
RM Mentock RM Mentock is offline
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Re: my bad.

Let's ask Roddy and Stewart.
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  #41  
Old 10-16-2000, 02:12 AM
APB9999 APB9999 is offline
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If we include the entire animal kingdom, there's LOTS of things that don't swim. Even some aquatic animals, like sponges, or the bottom-dwelling clams, for instance.
As for vertebrates, they all evolved from fish and would have to have lost the ability at some point to qualify. On a planet as watery as this, that seems like it would be real survival disadvantage; even deserts flood occassionally.
What candidates do we have? If memory serves the only uncontested vertebrate entry is the giraffe. Frankly, I'm skeptical. They may not be great swimmers, but they have big lungs and, one would expect a large center of buoyancy well below their nostrils. They might not propel themselves in the water terribly well, but I would think they'd float with their heads above water and be able to move along as well as, say, a horse. Until I drown one myself, I'm inclined to withhold judgement on the giraffe as a non-swimmer.

I think what we're looking for is a creature with a body plan in which it either (1) cannot float (2) cannot, while floating, keep its mouth or nostrils above water, or (3) has no limbs that can move it through the water. These are the things that seem to constitute "swimming" to me.
For (1), vertebrates have either lungs or gills, and I'm unaware of any vertebrates with gills who can't swim. So if an animal has lungs, it should generally float unless it's tissues are extremely dense (although I, personally, will sink to the bottom of a ten foot pool unless I keep my lungs fully inflated). I can think of two ways tissue density could become very dense - shells, like with turtles, and absorbent materials like fur or feathers that could become water-logged. Turtles can swim, and I'm unaware of any animal that can become so water-logged it can't float (that may just be my personal ignorance, though, they don't really focus on this stuff in biology class. If there is a non-swimming vertebrate, this may very well be the reason).
Wrt (2), an animal may float but be unable to float in an orientation that lets it breathe. I don't know of any such case, but it's possible. Any land dweller where the center of gravity was closer to the mouth than the center of buoyancy would be a candidate.
As for (3), it's highly unlikely. Literally any limb that moves ought to be able to provide at least SOME propulsion, and even the limbless snakes can swim quite well.

So there's a few characteristics to think about, but I know of no vertebrate that exhibits them so strongly they can't swim.
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  #42  
Old 10-16-2000, 02:33 PM
JillGat JillGat is offline
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Thanks for the interesting post, APB.

[[So there's a few characteristics to think about, but I know of no vertebrate that exhibits them so strongly they can't swim.]]

Except this guy I know named Leon.
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  #43  
Old 10-16-2000, 09:25 PM
bjb bjb is offline
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WARNING ! A graphic description of animal experimentation follows:

I submit gophers as a candidate for non-swimming vertebrate. Some time ago, my brother was battling gophers at my parent's farm and utilized several methods of doing away with them. As an experiment, he managed to capture one alive and tossed it into a bucket of water. It sank like a rock, emitted a few bubbles, and...well, he concluded that gophers could not swim.

A gopher has tiny limbs in proportion to its body. I would guess this is so it can squeeze through its burrow, but it makes them useless for swimming purposes. The way the gopher sank suggests it cannot rely on buoyancy to help it swim.

Perhaps other burrowing creatures, such as moles, are incapable of swimming ?
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  #44  
Old 10-17-2000, 07:11 AM
Carina42 Carina42 is offline
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French Bulldogs can't.

...They cannot swim, or even stay afloat. Because of an incredibly large head, dense & heavily muscled little barrel body & short legs, they'll sink like a stone if put in water deep enough.
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  #45  
Old 10-17-2000, 10:51 AM
Kyberneticist Kyberneticist is offline
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Do the bulldogs count though?

Aren't they a product of human selection, rather then evolution?
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  #46  
Old 10-17-2000, 02:57 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Can gophers, moles, or apes swim?

Regarding moles, the Star-nosed Mole (so named from the pink tentacles that surround its snout) is highly aquatic and an expert swimmer and diver. But even the common garden mole can swim fairly well (ref: Walker's Mammals of the World).

Given this, the observation of the drowning gopher is somewhat surprising, since one would not necessarily expect them to have less swimming capacity than moles, based on anatomy. The references I have consulted so far are mysteriously silent on the subject. Perhaps the animal in question saw the end was near in any case and decided to drown itself in despair. Clearly more experimentation is needed. For what it's worth, gophers tend to be found in drier areas than moles, and so perhaps encounter water less often. (Maybe I need to try looking this up under "Varmint Control" rather than "Mammalogy.")

Excellent post by APB, which nicely summarizes the anatomical constraints. However, one factor missing is the psychological side of the question. An animal could be perfectly capable of swimming with respect to its anatomy, but drown if it reacted adversely to finding itself in the water. This was part of my speculation that many smaller land birds might not be able to swim (even though they float very well, and are capable of moving their limbs in the water). Interesting post on the swimming eagle, BTW.

Psychological factors may in fact have something to do with the apparent inability of the Great Apes to swim, even though they are anatomically so similar to humans. In "The Apes," (Vernon Reynolds, 1967, pp. 87-88) we find the following rather definite statements:

"Swimming ability is almost nil in the apes. A young gibbon that fell into a pond at a zoo drowned while its mother watched, too afraid to rescue it. No report of swimming by a gibbon exists, but several others confirm its inability to swim. Orangutans have never been observed swimming, and probably cannot. Gorillas, faced with the alternative of capture by man, dare not go into water more than two or three feet deep. They have never been observed to swim, and at least one mature male has drowned in a zoo water enclosure, sinking as soon as he fell in. Only in chimpanzees is there some evidence for swimming ability. [Reynolds then cites a report of four chimpanzees seen swimming across a river in Africa, but then says he is inclined to think it must really have been some other species.] In captivity, attempts to teach chimpanzees to swim have met with failure, and deepwater barriers have often proved efficient in keeping apes on islands, as for example at the Paris Zoo. The general response of chimpanzees to water is universally agreed to be one of avoidance and even fear. I have myself on two occcasions helped pull chimpanzees out of a water-filled moat in which they were quite clearly drowning, and I am convinced they cannot swim, although in their stuggles as they flounder about they can sometimes make a little headway in the water."

I think the jury is still out on giraffes, though APB's points incline me to reverse my earlier opinion that they could't. Awkward they certainly might be, but I don't see a definite anatomical reason why they wouldn't be able to swim, particularly with the neck stretched out horizontally to the water.
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  #47  
Old 10-18-2000, 10:30 AM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Gorillas and kangaroos

PS. As a follow-up to my previous post, the case of the "drowning gorilla" mentioned in many references seems to be based on an incident at the Bronx Zoo in the late '40s or early 50's, when a full-grown adult male gorilla tumbled into the moat of his enclosure and drowned with scarcely a struggle in full view of a crowd of horrified and astonished spectators. When I find out the name of the gorilla, I'll let you know.

Earlier in this thread someone speculated that kangaroos might not be able to swim. No luck. They do. Peculiarly enough, they use the hind feet alternately while swimming, something they appear to be quite unable to do on land (always hopping, never walking).
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  #48  
Old 10-18-2000, 01:06 PM
JillGat JillGat is offline
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Still waiting for the name of the gorilla... Jeez, get with the program here, Colibri.
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  #49  
Old 10-18-2000, 04:27 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Requiem for a Gorilla

Patience, Jill, patience. These things take a little time.

The name of the gorilla was Makoko, and the incident happened in 1951. The moat was six feet deep. (ref: Maple and Hoff, 1982, Gorilla Behavior, p. 236.)

The obituary mentioned that "the family requests bananas be sent in lieu of flowers."

Sorry this took so long.
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  #50  
Old 10-19-2000, 08:37 AM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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Of course, there is a danger in generalizing about a species from one sample of the species.
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