Snowshoes, High Heels, Cleats, and Swim Fins
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Shoes: you find them everywhere. From young toddlers to the elderly, people of all ages wear many different shoes in order to be stylish, stay warm, protect and support the feet, or be used for specific activities. It is likely that you have your own favorite pair of shoes, but did you know that many animals have their own shoe-like adaptations?
The feet of a polar bear, twelve inches in diameter, are specially adapted for its Artic home. Compared to the size of a polar bear's body, its feet are larger in proportion. The bigger feet spread the polar bear's weight out, allowing it to walk on ice and snow without sinking in. Polar bear feet also have fur between the pads, giving the animal a better grip when walking on slippery ice.
Despite their massive size and weight, elephants walk on their tiptoes. A thick layer of padding separates the heel bone from the bottom of the foot, while the toe bones are instead much closer to the skin layer. The padding serves to cushion the bone, and is similar to the heel of a shoe, with the exception of probably being more comfortable. Because of their special feet, elephants barely leave footprints while walking. They may also feel vibrations in the ground, such as those of a storm or approaching animals.
Many animals, such as dogs or wolves, have semi retractable claws. Their toenails are always out and visible. While most cats are able to retract their claws, cheetahs cannot. They too have semi retractable claws that dig into the ground for a better grip, allowing them to run faster. Cheetahs can run as fast as seventy miles per hour, and at those speeds they need as much grip and stability as possible. Like the metal spikes on cleats, the claws of these animals can also wound their opposition. Cheetahs often use their dewclaw to scratch and trip the legs of their prey during pursuit for an easier kill.
Sea lions, as well as other aquatic mammals, have legs specially adapted for life in the water. Their appendages are shaped like fins, and help them to swim better by moving the water more efficiently. Humans also mimic these adaptations by wearing swim fins while snorkeling or SCUBA diving. Pinnipeds like sea lions, walruses, and seals can also walk on land using all four of their flippers.