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FlipFact of the Day: A caprine species endemic to North America, mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) possess the uncanny, seemingly physics-defying ability to scale high cliffs. Slopes angled above 60 degrees don’t bother it, and ledges and gaps don’t faze it. This talent has proven to be invaluable when they hunt for food or escape from predators. More often than not, these sure-footed climbers have been photographed in situations that would be dangerous to ordinary humans. But how, exactly, do they pull off these incredible feats that would turn any mountaineer green with envy?

Simply put, mountain goats are pretty much built to climb. For starters, their convex-shaped hooves are a combination of hard, bony outer casings (letting them dig into the tiniest ledges) and soft pads underneath (that follow the texture and contours of mountain surfaces). They’re also capable of bringing their front toes together and wiggling them apart, depending on what they need to improve their surface grip.

Mountain goats are also powerful jumpers; in a single bound, they can jump to 12 feet. Additionally, their muscular shoulders and thick necks enable them to pull themselves up without much difficulty.

And then there’s the way they leap and climb: Though we haven’t really observed many of them during actual climbs (due to their generally inaccessible locations), experts note that mountain goats tend to keep their elbows close to their center of mass when climbing, giving themselves a bit of a boost when they leap and extend their elbows. Thus, when it comes to mountaineering, mountain goats truly are the G.O.A.T.


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Cover photo: Francesco L./Flickr

References

  • http://thescienceexplorer.com/nature/how-mountain-goats-ascend-nearly-vertical-cliffs
  • https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/watch-these-amazing-alpine-goats-scale-a-nearvertical-dam
  • https://www.businessinsider.com/mountain-goats-climbing-cliffs-how-do-they-do-it-2015-10
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0944200616300514