How do some animals jump so high?
Animals use their leg’s skeletal muscles to jump high. The ultimate power required to perform a jump is supplied by the skeletal muscle.
The more power the skeletal muscles are able to generate the more elastic and high the jump will be.
Now, this power generation mechanism varies from animal to animal, and so that’s why some animals can jump very high while some can only jump moderately high.
Those animals that jump very high have long legs, large leg skeletal muscles, and additional limb elements such as tendons or apodemes to provide enough kinetic energy to jump as high as possible exerting a force opposite to the substratum (land or water) where the animal has kept its legs.
Those animals that only use their leg skeletal muscles can’t always jump high as the maximum power output of muscles is limited.
On the other hand, those animals that have various other elastic elements such as tendons or apodemes along with the skeletal muscles, can generate much more energy and elasticity due to the strain energy to jump very high, thus increasing launch energy to levels beyond what muscle alone is capable of.
According to the physics of jumping, it is to be noted that the angle at which the animal will jump, and initial launch velocity of the jump will determine the distance, duration, and height of the jump.
And so, the maximum possible horizontal travel distance occurs at a launch angle of 45°, but any launch angle between 35° and 55° will result in 90% of the maximum possible distance of the jump.
The jump is basically followed on a parabolic path until and unless the animal opts to jump straight upward.
According to the force-velocity relationship of the muscle contraction, it has been stated that long-legged animals can jump higher and more far distance than those of the short-legged ones.
The force-velocity relationship is when the muscle contracts and then relaxes all of a sudden, then a force is generated all of a sudden due to the tension generated within the muscle fibres over the entire length of the muscles, thus producing a velocity for the high liftment of the body during a jump.
So, the more the length of the muscle, that is when the longer the leg, the higher and far the animal can jump, according to the force-velocity relationship.
How animals jump to catch their prey?
Animals like the ambush predators (like leopards, tiger, etc.) hide and wait for their prey to come at a suitable distance near them, and then they make a sudden powerful and high jump. Such a jump to catch their prey is also called a surprise attack.
They cautiously stalk their prey from the rear in attempt to get as close as possible to their unsuspecting prey.
Then they attempt to take down their prey with a powerful bite to the neck and or throat after a jump.
These ambush predators have long hind legs (supported by the force-velocity relationship) that help them to jump high and catch their prey.
They can also jump and run very fast using the force exerted with their forelimbs to drag the body forward if the need arises.
The hind limbs are the main limbs that will launch the body up high during a jump and can also provide the elastic force to push the body forward while running.
The forelimbs will basically have a little forward dragging force while running and will give the direction of movement to the body while jumping or running.
The forelimbs are also packed with powerful claws that grab the prey with a killing force.
Now taking the example of the tiger, you can see that a tiger’s hind legs are longer than its front legs, giving them the ability to leap/jump horizontally forward 20-30 feet and vertically 12 feet high in one jump.
Tigers have large, padded, feet that make it easier for them to silently stalk their prey.
Lions and tigers can jump almost equally high. The vertical leap record for a tiger is more than 12 feet, and the lion is just a few inches less than that of the tiger.
Why do animals jump so high?
There are various reasons why animals jump so high. Now this answer can vary from species to species.
Some animals like frogs jump to run away from predators, while some like kangaroo jumps to move from place to place, while some like tigers jump to catch their prey, while some like Bharal jumps to move from cliff to cliff and hill to hill, while some like Arboreal lizards (example: Draco) can jump between trees.
Ambush predators like leopard, tiger, lion, etc. jump high to grab the prey with its claws and bite it in its neck to kill it. To bring the prey down, lions jump on the backs of very large animals.
Others like Long-legged frogs, toads use their long and powerful hind limbs to jumps far to escape from predators. They basically use them safety and jump away from danger as soon as possible.
Another such are the rabbits and hares that jump very high and can easily leap almost 4 feet into the air and nearly 10 feet forward in a single launch. This helps them to be safe and run away from predators and also as a way to signal to other rabbits in the area that danger may be near.
The famous highest jumpers, the Kangaroos of Australia, are known to hop (jump) from one place to another as they rarely walk. They use their long hind legs to cover 25 feet distance in a single leap while jumping 6 feet high.
Mountain goats and Bharal are powerful jumpers and so can jump nearly 12 feet in a single bound. Bharals are more adapted to jump from cliff to cliff and hill to hill.
Some reptiles like Arboreal lizards (example: Draco) and snakes (example: Chrysopelea ornata) can jump between flexible branches to move or glide towards its target.
Well, the animal kingdom is so diverse that there are a lot of reasons still left to be written here in this post for why animals jump so high. And, a lot of the adaptations are still to be discovered in the near future.
Can every animal jump? Do all animals jump high?
Not all animals can jump. Those animals that can’t jump probably have a heavier upper body, or lacks powerful hind limbs to leap the body upwards, or don’t have any kind of muscle physiology suitable for jumping.
Famous animals like the elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, etc. can’t jump at all.
More non-jumpers can be seen in the invertebrate animal world like the earthworms, ants (only three of 326 ant genera are known to jump), starfish, jellyfish, corals, sponges, etc. that can’t jump at all.
In the animal kingdom, it is to be noted that the majority of the higher vertebrates from amphibians to mammals are known for their ability to jump, while the majority of the invertebrates are not able to jump.
Those higher animals that can’t jump lack better body dynamics for jumping, and also the force exerted by their leg muscle is not at all supported by their limb bones for jumping.
Also, the heavy bodied animals can’t jump because the height through which the animal will jump depends on the leg muscles and the leg bones, and their muscles and bones lack the power to push the heavy body upward.
And the mass of the heavy bodied animal, as for a greater mass, there is a greater force pulling the animal back down to Earth due to gravitational pull. For this reason, different animals can jump through different heights as enough power is required to jump.
So, all animals can’t jump high. Those animals that have a light-balanced upper body part, better dynamics, and long legs, and skeletal muscles along with other elastic elements such as tendons or apodemes, are only able to jump high.
The better these body physical factors and strength in their hind limbs are, the higher they can jump.
Why can some animals jump much higher than us?
Some animals can jump much higher than us humans because they can generate much higher muscular force with their long legs and muscles than we can to jump higher than us.
We, humans, use our short-styled legs and our leg skeletal muscles are not so powerful enough to create a better force-velocity relation with our muscle contraction and relaxation.
So, you will often see long and flexible legged people jumping higher than the short legged people.
The high jumping animals use not only their skeletal muscles but also their elastic leg tendons to leap themselves high.
But, we humans can’t jump so high because we make less use of our leg tendons. However, those athletics and runners that do practice gymnastics have better flexibility in their leg tendons and muscles that enable them to jump higher than normal people.
Humans, in general, try to jump straight upward with the leg’s launch angle of anywhere around 90° which according to physics isn’t perfect to jump higher.
On the other hands, those animals that jump higher than us has a launch angle of anywhere between 35° and 55° that will result in 90% of the maximum possible distance and height of jump.
Also it is to be noted that when you or the animal is standing, and are not moving downward and not moving upward, then there is no change in motion, so all of the forces acting on the body are balanced.
But, as soon as the body leaps upward from the ground the gravitational force of the earth starts to pull the body downwards.
In humans, it has been seen that this gravitational force is able to pull us downwards much more rapidly and forcefully when we try to jump high. And as, our upward jumping force is not much greater than the downward force of gravity, and so we can’t jump high.
However, when higher jumping animals like Kangaroo, etc. get to jump then they are able to exert much more force upwards than the gravitational force. So, they very easily able to jump higher than humans.
Once the kangaroo has jumped the high it can, setting itself in motion. And if no other forces are acting on it, the kangaroo would continue to move through the air with the same motion. Instead, the force of gravity will bring this kangaroo back to the ground.
Which animals have the highest jump?
Compared to the size, fleas (small flightless insects that survive as external parasites of mammals and birds) show the longest and highest jumps of all animals.
Fleas can jump over fifty times their own height. That’s the highest in the animal kingdom known so far.
Tree Frogs can jump 150 times their own body length, putting them at the second spot for longest jumping animal in relation to body weight.
The Kangaroo rats are the longest jumpers of all mammals in accordance to their body size. They can leap as high as 9 feet in the air in a split second and that’s about 45 times of its own body length.
Red Kangaroos are the fastest jumpers among all mammals. They can jump at speed of up to 35 miles an hour. They are known to jump a distance of about 25 feet in a single leap with a jump of about 6 feet high.
Also, marine mammals like Dolphins can jump as high as 22.9 feet (7 metres) out from the water surface. Some Dolphins have also been seen to leap over 25 feet in the air coming out above the water.