(Editor's note: This story was contributed by Thom Benson, spokesman for the Tennessee Aquarium)
Did you know some ants can carry 50 times their body weight? How about that Alligator Snapping Turtles can hold their breath for 40 minutes or that a hummingbird flaps its wings about 80 times a second?
During the upcoming IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships on Saturday, Sept. 9, and Sunday, Sept. 10, and during the IRONMAN weekend of Sept. 23 and 24 in Chattanooga, visitors to the Tennessee Aquarium will be able to put their own athletic abilities to the test. Guests can leap like a lemur, solve an octopus puzzle and see how their ability to withstand frigid waters compares to a penguin’s. Then, they’ll meet the animals whose extraordinary abilities help them meet these challenges every day.
Kids of all ages can test their speed and strength, as well some wilder skills like wing flapping and (paper) fly catching. As they visit activity stations, they will learn about the special adaptations and attributes that give some animal athletes the ability to go farther, move faster or jump higher. Competing in events like IRONMAN is challenging and rewarding for humans, but for many of these animals, pushing themselves to the limit is a matter of survival.
“We hope that while guests are competing, they also gain an appreciation for some of nature’s most amazing animal feats,” said senior educator/animal trainer Susie Grant. “These remarkable abilities are part of what helps them survive as they search for food and avoid being dinner for someone else.”
The Animal Athletes programming is free with Aquarium admission or Aquarium membership. Participants can pick up a score card at the registration table in the River Journey lobby. Upon completing the days’ activities, guests can return to the River Journey Lobby to claim an Animal Athletes medal.
Are you up for the challenge?
Schedule of Events Sept. 9-10 and 23-24
10 – 11 a.m. and 1 – 2 p.m. Outside Challenges (under the River Journey pavilion)
- Leaping Lemur Long Jump
- Octo-Jar Challenge
- Jump Higher than an Arapaima
- Ice Water Endurance
- Speed Trials
- Water Jug Weightlifting
3 and 4 p.m. Critter Close-up: Meet an Animal Athlete (River Journey, Delta Country gallery)
3:30 p.m. Super Snakes and Fantastic Frogs (River Journey Auditorium)
- Wing Flapping: How many beats in one minute? River Journey Overlook
- Hold Your Breath: How many seconds? Delta Country Exhibit
- Wingspan of an Eagle: How wide is yours? River Journey Overlook
The Aquarium recommends the following training schedule to hopeful competitors:
- Always remember to stretch from head to tail.
- Be sure to drink plenty of water, even if you live in it.
- A balanced diet is important for everyone, from herbivore to carnivore and everything in between.
- Run, swim, fly, crawl or slither for at least 30 minutes every day.
- Get six to eight hours of sleep each night (or day, if you’re nocturnal).