The good, the bad, and the extremely rapid
Performance is critical for survival, and this principle is often driven to extremes. Many animals live in extreme environments, such as those found in regions like the Mojave Desert or the Arctic, and such environments often require extreme tactics. Additionally, many animals utilize extreme performance to rapidly escape from predators or capture highly evasive prey. The explosiveness of suction feeding in fish, the powerful jumping of frogs, and the ballistic projection of tongues by chameleons all provide elegant examples of extreme performance. It’s often the case that physiological limits are circumvented with performance “enhancers”: for example, during jumping, limits imposed by muscle physiology can be overcome by using tendons to store energy (sometimes accumulated quite slowly) and then release it via a powerful recoil. This chapter explores how such mechanisms influence the ability of some animals to overcome seemingly ironclad rules of animal performance.
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