The Olympics are designed to test elite athleticism, at least in the human realm. But what about the animal world? How would Arctic foxes fare in the Winter Olympics, or snowy owls for that matter?
These Arctic animals, and others, are fast flyers and runners, and they hunt prey with deadly accuracy.
Granted, these animals might not follow all the rules (penguins, after all, slide on their bellies, not sleds), but here are seven animals that would excel at the Winter Olympics and likely win a few gold medals while they're at it. [Beasts in Battle: 15 Amazing Animal Recruits in War]
1. Artic fox
The Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) would crush any cross-country-skiing competition. This small carnivore has thick fur that helps it survive in weather as cold as minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 45 degrees Celsius), according to the San Diego Zoo. Its lush tail can curl like a scarf around its body, keeping it warm, the San Diego Zoo added.
These foxes don't use skis to get around, but the fur on their feet gives them traction as they run, acating like a natural snowshoe. In fact, their species name, lagopus, means "hare-footed" in Greek, according to the San Diego Zoo.
2. Flattie spider
Whenever the web-less spider notices a potential meal, it keeps one leg anchored and spins around until it catches its target.The flattie spider (Selenopidae) can spin much faster than an Olympic figure skater. To be exact, this arachnid can spin around in one-eighth of a second, which is nearly three times faster than the blink of an eye, according to a study published Feb. 12 in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Just like figure skaters draw their arms closer to their body to spin faster, flattie spiders pull their remaining legs toward themselves, which allows them to spin up to 40 percent faster and nail a perfect landing, with their mouth positioned next to the prey, according to the researchers who conducted the study. You can watch a video of it below.
3. Arctic hare
During ski jumping, Winter Olympic athletes zoom off a ski jump and lean forward, with their skis in a V-shape as they zoom through the air and land at record distances for their respective countries.
We nominate the Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) for this event, given that the hare can go airborne, too, as it bounds through the snow at speeds as high as 40 mph (64 km/h), according to National Geographic (opens in new tab).
There are few things more intense than speeding down a steep racetrack on a skeleton sled. But a seal probably wouldn't mind. These fin-footed pinnipeds slide all the time on their fat bellies as they enter and exit the water, according to Seals-World.
Penguins would make world-class bobsledders. That's because they're epic tobogganers.
Bobsledding became a sport in the late 19th century, when Swiss athletes attached two skeleton sleds together and added a steering mechanism to make a toboggan, according to Olympics.org.
Likewise, penguins plop down on their stomachs and then slide around on the ice and snow, using their feet and wings to guide and push them along. Some penguins glide on their bellies for miles at a time, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Curling is a complex sport rife with rules and tools — including brooms, stones and sliders. It's no leap of the imagination that crows would do exceptionally well … largely because they're so good at making and using tools.
New Caledonian crows, for instance, can fashion hooks from sticks to grab larvae and insects from crevices in logs or branches, Live Science previously reported. The Hawaiian crow is also a medal winner, finding the best sticks to reach food in awkward spots.
We're not sure if these crows would sweep the ice with brooms, but they would certainly sweep the competition if the goal were to use sticks to nab a snack.
7. Snowy owl
The biathlon has roots in Scandinavia, where people hunted on skis with rifles hung over their shoulders, according to Olympics.org.
Snowy owls (Bubo scandiacus) don't ski and shoot, but they do fly with speed and have excellent hearing and vision that help them hunt with lethal accuracy. These owls would stand atop the podium at any animal Olympics, though they'd likely prefer a tasty lemming to a gold medal.
Original article on Live Science.