Ocean Animals

Ever think about how you could learn how to swim just by observing animals in their natural habitat?  Well if you can’t make time for a swim lesson, I suggest visiting some aquatic friends either in person, or watching videos of them online.

Many animals, though not all, are born with the instinctive reflex of how to survive in water.  Of course, practice makes perfect, but animals don’t really have an opportunity to take swim lessons like we do.

A little fun fact: infants in the first six months of their lives already have the natural instincts that come with being in water.  This is due to the nine months spent “floating” in utero.  When submerged, infants will naturally hold their breath, and their heart rate will slow down.  In addition, when placed on their stomachs in water, they will move their arms and legs in a swim-like motion.  While this does not mean you should test this theory with a newborn, it’s interesting to see how humans, like many other mammals, are born with such an instinct.

Now, fast forward to the years of childhood and adolescence.  Say that one day you take a trip to the local aquarium or zoo to go look at all the cool and interesting animals.  You go to the tanks and perhaps you see a dolphin.  Notice, how the dolphin uses its tail to glide through the water and use the force of the tail to bring him in and out of the surface of the water.  This is your first swim lesson before you have even stepped onto a pool deck.  The dolphin teaches us that if we put our legs together and kick hard at the same time, we can create a strong and powerful kick for ourselves.  This is especially useful for when we learn how to push off the walls or begin to learn the butterfly stroke.

Moving onto the next tank, we see some sea otters.  These cute, little, fluffy creatures can teach us one of the most important things there is to know about swimming: floating.  Floating is probably one of the most useful techniques to learn because it is what keeps you from going under water.  Otters float on their backs with their heads back, and arms out to help keep themselves afloat.  Similarly, this is what we do when we first learn to float.  We want to maintain a relaxed balance on the top of the water and make sure our heads don’t slip under.

Another creature that teaches us to float, is the jellyfish.  Now, I know what you’re thinking: how can a spineless, faceless creature help me float?  Well, when we are still learning how to swim, we need to be able to float on our fronts as well as our backs.  So, while the otter teaches us the back float, the jellyfish teaches us the front float.  For this one, our faces must go in the water, so be prepared to hold your breath.  However, like a jellyfish, we keep our arms relaxed and out the sides to make sure we stay on the surface.  Of course, this float should only be held for a while, as your face will be submerged, and you wouldn’t want to stay under for too long.

While there are many other animals that can teach you how to swim, I’ll finish off by talking about the creature that helps us the most when it comes to swimming…FISH!  Fish are important to observe, as they teach us how to blow bubbles underwater when we’re holding our breath, and overall control of our breathing.  It’s always especially fun to use your imagination when swimming and see yourself as a fish slicing through the water with your fins and gills.


-Taylor Casey