WTF Fun Fact 13516 – Bald Eagle Breaststroke

Bald eagles, like some other birds of prey, can swim using a movement that’s remarkably similar to the human breaststroke. If an eagle catches a fish that’s too heavy to lift, it may use its wings in a swimming motion to move to shore with its catch.

The Bald Eagle Breast Stroke

When one thinks of the American bald eagle, a distinctive image comes to mind: a majestic bird soaring high in the skies, its sharp eyes scouting below for prey, or perched high atop a tree or cliff. Rarely do we picture this iconic bird swimming in water, wings sprawled out, making its way steadily to the shore.

However, bald eagles are primarily fish eaters, and their hunting strategy involves swooping down from a high perch or mid-air to snatch fish out of the water with their talons. Sometimes the prey might be too hefty for the eagle to lift.

Instead of abandoning the catch, the eagle, driven by instinct and determination, will resort to “swimming” to the nearest shore, using its wings in a motion reminiscent of the human breaststroke.

The Mechanics of the Eagle’s “Breaststroke”

Eagles, like all birds, have powerful pectoral muscles that control their wing movements. When airborne, these muscles allow them to achieve strong, sustained flapping or to glide gracefully using updrafts. In the water, these same muscles serve a different but equally vital purpose.

An eagle in the water will spread its wings out and push against the water, essentially using its wings as makeshift paddles. This motion propels the bird forward in a slow but steady manner. The movement is surprisingly coordinated, and the resemblance to the human breaststroke is uncanny. The eagle keeps its head above water, looks straight ahead, and aims for the shore.

Swimming is not an eagle’s forte, so the bald eagle breaststroke is not something you’re likely to see.

The process is energy-intensive and leaves the bird vulnerable to potential threats. The waterlogged feathers become heavy, making the task even more arduous.

However, the promise of a big meal may outweigh the risks, especially during breeding season when there are eaglets to feed. A large fish can provide sustenance for the entire family.

While the image of a bald eagle swimming might seem incongruous, it’s a vivid reminder of the surprising and often overlooked behaviors of the animal kingdom. Nature is full of examples of adaptability and resilience, and the bald eagle’s occasional foray into aquatic locomotion is a fascinating instance of this.

Want to see an eagle in action? Check it out:

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Source: “Bald Eagle Does the Breaststroke” — Good Nature

WTF Fun Fact 13460 – Sharks in a Lake

There’s nothing quite like the ocean. But you can get some beach time in at the lake as well. It used to be a shark-free way to enjoy the water. But not anymore since there have been more than a few reports of sharks in a lake!

If you’ve swum in certain lakes around the globe, you might have shared a swim with these fascinating creatures.

Bull sharks are freshwater fans

While Great Whites may not make an appearance in our freshwater lakes, bull sharks, notorious for their ability to survive in both salt and fresh water, do make an appearance. This survival trick is all thanks to their advanced ability to osmoregulate their livers. This allows them to adapt to varying salinity levels, unlike their fellow hammerhead or tiger sharks.

One of the largest freshwater lakes in the Americas, Lake Nicaragua, sees these adaptable creatures as regular inhabitants. The bull sharks make their way through the San Juan River. They successfully navigate through eight rapids, much like salmon, to reach the lake and may reside in the lake for several years.

They exhibit some impressive rapids-navigation abilities not seen in other bull shark populations.

Unexpected sightings of sharks in a lake

Even a seemingly innocent round of golf can turn into a shark encounter at Queensland’s Carbrook Golf Club in Australia. In 1996, a massive flood seems to have left around six bull sharks trapped in the golf course’s freshwater lake. Since then, the shark population has been a consistent feature of the club.

The bull shark presence is not limited to Australia or the Americas. In Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana, bull sharks have been spotted and even caught by anglers. A boy was reportedly attacked by a bull shark in 2014 in this lake. The sharks are known to venture more into the lake during the summer. But they retreat back to the Gulf of Mexico towards the year-end.

These fascinating creatures have also been observed in Lake Janoer in New Guinea. Oh, and you might see one in Lake Izabal in Guatemala, Lake Sentani in Indonesia, and Lake Bayano in Panama. (But note that despite a few shark sighting being reported in the Great Lakes, such as Lake Michigan, those have never been scientifically confirmed.)

In a more heartwarming encounter, Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela is home to a bull shark nursery. However, this particular lake may not be the best holiday destination. It holds the world record for the highest number of lightning strikes.

Freshwater lakes aren’t always shark-free

A river swim doesn’t eliminate the risk of encountering a shark. Three species of river sharks exist: the Ganges shark, the northern river shark, and the speartooth shark. These aquatic creatures can be found in the freshwater rivers in India and the brackish estuaries in northern Australia and New Guinea.

But don’t freak out (despite Summer 2023 being the year the ocean seems to be fighting back). It’s essential to remember that shark attacks, whether in the sea or a lake, are exceedingly rare. In fact, have a better chance of being bitten by a New Yorker than a shark!

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Source: “Shark-Infested Lakes Exist And You Might Have Already Swum In One” — IFL Science

WTF Fun Fact 13072 – Elephants Swim

Despite their size and weight, elephants swim with great skill. They can cross rivers, swim underwater, and even float when they get tired.

How do elephants swim?

The elephant’s trunk is one of its best swimming tools. It acts as a snorkel when they go underwater, helping them breathe.

Not all elephants get the chance to swim unless they live in swampy areas or near deep enough rivers. But they’re built to do it. Even their feet have webbing that helps them glide through the water. Their ears help them keep water out of their ear canals, and their tails can even act as rudders.

Learning to swim

Elephants aren’t born knowing how to swim. They typically learn how to use their trunk as a snorkel at a few months old. That’s when their mother brings them to a nearby body of water and watches over them while they learn.

Despite looking like they’d immediately sink to the bottom of the water, elephants are also naturally buoyant. That makes it very difficult for them to drown (unless they get caught up in rapids).

According to the Elephant Guide website (cited below):

“Elephants typically swim using somewhat of a breaststroke. For us humans, this will be comparable to a “doggy swim” type of stroke rather than a clean human breaststroke.
The elephants’ four legs are used to propel them through the water. Their legs are so powerful that they can swim continuously for as long as six hours! An elephant’s head and torso are generally kept just below the surface of the water as it paddles its massive limbs back and forth on a typical swim.”

Swimming for distance

The longest recorded elephant swim was 22 miles and 6 meters deep!

But typically they go for short swims to cool off. Distance swimming only occurs when they need to cross a body of water.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Can Elephants swim? They even swim underwater!” — Elephant Guide

WTF Fun Fact 12969 – Manatees Fart to Swim

Do you know a kid who loves to share fun facts about animals and just won’t stop telling you everything you never wanted to know about lizards or sharks or bugs? Well, it’s time to blow their minds with your superior animal knowledge and show them adults reign supreme in the world of truly fun facts. Manatees fart to swim.

Do manatees really fart to swim?

We’re totally serious. We even looked it up on Snopes because it seemed too good to be true.

While manatees are aquatic animals, they aren’t like fish, which can live underwater but also have something called a “swim bladder” to control their buoyancy. Instead, manatees need to float – and if you live in the water but need to stay atop it, you have three choices – be built to sit upon it (like a duck), tread water like your life depends on it (like a human), or have a mechanism that makes your body buoyant.

And since the animals we lovingly call “sea cows” eat about 100 pounds of vegetation a day, let’s just say staying perched upon a wave isn’t really an option for them. That’s why manatees developed a different mechanism to stay afloat. Farts.

Fart like your life depends on it

At Captain Mike’s Swimming with the Manatees in Crystal, Florida (whose website we’ve cited below), you’ll get a great explanation of how the fart propulsion actually works.

According to the experts who swim with the flatulent sea cows all day, all the vegetation they eat creates the same reaction in their bodies as it does in ours. Farts. Gas. Flatulence. Whatever you want to call it.

“For manatees, there is always enough gas in the body…The gas produced during digestion is stored in intestinal pouches ready for use in swimming,” note the experts.

And how does that lead to the ability to swim?

“The gas produced during digestion is lighter than water. So when the animals hold in a substantial amount of gas in intestinal pouches, they lower their overall density and float in water. On the contrary, releasing the gas from the body makes a manatee relatively denser than water and to be able to readily sink. That is why manatees fart to swim. For they have to continuously hold in enough gas in their bodies to be able to come to the surface to breathe. Then soon after, they have to fart in order to release some gas, become less buoyant, and sink underwater.”

Hold your breath

Manatees can actually hold their breath for up to 20 minutes (don’t try that one at home!). But rather than use the breath trick, they can use farts with a lot less effort.

So next time you’re in the pool, you can see how this works (without the farts – don’t use the farts). Take a big, deep breath, hold it, and then float on your back. Then release the air (from your nose or mouth, please) and notice that you sink a bit.

Then you can tell everyone around you to be grateful that you’re not a manatee. Otherwise, they would have seen a lot of bubbles from your backside.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Do manatees fart to swim?” — Swimming with the Manatees