Imagine you could fall asleep merrily in a peaceful lake without a worry of drowning? Then you would actually be a hippo. Hippos are able to bob their heads above water to breath, while they relax asleep underwater! Pretty cool no?
They actually spend about 16 hours a day in the water. That is where they love to be and feel the safest. They can hold their breath for about five whole minutes underwater. While they sleep they just break the surface automatically and take a breathe – all without waking up. The reason they spend so much time underwater is that their skin is so sensitive. They have to keep themselves protected and away from direct sunlight.
It is pretty strange to think that hippos actually have more in common with whales than any other land creature. When you see them, you may think they are related to pigs or possibly rhinoceros. But actually, scientists who have looked into their DNA genes have concluded that hippos have more in common with whales than any land mammal! In fact only 55 million years ago they were swimming around the ocean with the whales. On the whales side this shared ancestry is confirmed by the fact that they have an extra bone inside their body which is used for nothing and resembles an ankle!
Critical to the continued health of our planet! Hippos actually help our natural ecosystems thrive and live. They are so big that they make new paths in water and land. Water can flow through these channels and reach the dry land of Africa. Meaning that when the wet season comes, hippos help the whole habitat benefit. The newly formed habitats help insects, birds and plant life form – this is why a scientist like to refer to hippos as ecosystem engineers.
And though you may not think it, those little legs can carry them surprisingly fast, they have been clocked moving at over 18 miles an hour over land. So if they ever see some food then they will be running fast to get to it, watch out if you are ever on a safari.