Animal Movement – How Animals Get From Here to There!

by, Jo Carol Hebert

Animals move when they need to eat, to escape from predators, to find a mate, and build a home.

And, sometimes, animals move just for the joy of life. The structure of their body parts determines how they can move to meet their needs.

Fabulous Flight, Wondrous Wings!

At the first sight of the first bird against a blue sky, man has wanted to fly. The first wish of a kid for a superpower is “to fly”. Early ‘bird-men’ strapped on fake wings and flung themselves from heights.

But only certain animals can fly. And the best fliers are the birds.

All birds have feathers. Their feathered extensions allow birds the ultimate freedom of flight. Layered and veined by hollow bones, they attach to strong chest muscles that allow these ‘frequent fliers’ to migrate long distances, soar, sweep, glide, hover, turn, dive, circle, and swoop. 

The wings move up and down, lifting their streamlined body into the air. The ever-pressing weight of gravity is overcome.

The shape and size of the wing lets the flying animal control flight movement and patterns.

The insect world is full of busy and bothersome little fliers, but they are not birds. 

From the ocean albatross with a wingspan up to 11-feet to the tiny-winged bee hummingbird that weighs less than ½ ounce, birds are the rulers of the kingdom of the sky. 

Humans can only purchase a ticket on a jetliner.

Walking on ‘Limbs’

Wings are for flying as legs are for walking. 

Birds have legs and claws but that is not their main way of movement. Of the over million known species of animals, most move in some form of walking or crawling over solid earthen terrains. 

Walking is a simple, yet complex coordination of the limbs (whatever number of arms and legs of the animal). 

The apparatus of the limbs for walking can function for a variety of other forms of movement. These legs can run, climb, crawl, jump, leap, bound, and hop.

Walkers can have feet that are pawed and padded for creeping and stalking, like the cats; or hoofed like the numerous plodding cattle species, the agile deer family, and the magnificent horse. 

Walkers can have multiple legs, and crawl, like crabs and spiders. 

Walkers and stalkers can become fast runners to catch prey, like the 70- mph cheetah. Likewise, the ‘preyed-upon’ can turn on the speed, ‘zig-zag’, leap and bound, or scale steep, rocky inclines to outmaneuver the predator. 

Long-legged herd animals give birth to babies that are up on their feet and walking within the hour to keep up with the herd.

Some lizards can ‘walk’ on water. Ducks and penguins waddle-walk. And monkeys use their forelimbs to swing from tree to tree. 

Flies, moths, and bees do a six-legged kind of ‘side-walking’ to get across surfaces when they are not flying.

Creep and Crawl, Slither and Slide

Most reptiles crawl. Insects, slugs, snails, salamanders, and lizards slide while spiders creep along on eight legs.

Snakes and worms wiggle and slither along on no legs. (And some worms can grow wings and become butterflies)! 

Otters, with their webbed feet, and seals, walrus and sea lions, with flippers are awkward walkers. But they slide gracefully down icy or muddy banks and swim beautifully. 

Moles and gophers, and prairie dogs dig tunnels underground to get from here to there. 

Pangolins can curl up in a ball and roll along.

Jumpers and Hoppers

Kangaroos and their cousin wallabies, rabbits and hares, frogs, grasshoppers, and fleas cover ground by a kind of hop/leap, springing up/down and forward on powerful hind limbs.

Swimming With the Fishies!

Fins, gills, tails like rudders and sleek scaled bodies work well for aquatic animals, whose habitat is the oceans and fresh waters of the earth. 

Animals that live mainly in water are: fish (of course), whales, turtles, porpoises/dolphins, octopus, alligators and crocodiles, hippos, manatees, and the odd duck billed platypus, to name just a familiar few.

Kids ‘R’ Movers, Too!

Sometimes, it’s hard for kids to be restrained from moving for a long time. Kid’s muscles are growing and need regular exercise. Kids are ‘multi-movers’. They can move in all ways: walk, run, dig, crawl, jump, hop, leap, swim, fly (in their imaginations), and pedal bicycles. 

Kids do better mentally, when their bodies can release built-up energy and mental tension from long periods of sitting. 

Signs of children in a classroom or home setting needing a recess are: squirming, fidgeting, restless, irritability, boredom, and random acts of mischief!

*See Curriculum Corner: Your Amazing Body: Skeleton,  Gross Motor Activity 3, Move Like An Animal for fun and anti-boredom activities.

All the family can participate. (Imagine Dad walking like a Penguin!)  

Take a break. Have a party. Let’s move it!

Categories: Animals

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