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Godzilla and Kong Keep Growing. But They're No Match for Physics

Published by Slashdot on Sat, 03 Apr 2021

Both monsters have grown in size over the years, and they reach new heights in Godzilla vs. Kong. But could they ever exist in real life' From a report: The last time the pair squared off, in the 1962 Japanese stop-motion release King Kong vs. Godzilla, Kong was 148 feet tall, compared to just 25ft tall in Peter Jackson's 2005 film King Kong, according to online estimates. In 2017's Kong: Skull Island, the great primate was around 104ft; almost four times smaller than the current iteration of Godzilla, who clocks in at 393ft. While the skeletons of Kong's parents in Skull Island suggest 100ft is roughly their species' genetic limit, the producers of the series have retconned the franchise by explaining that Kong is an adolescent in that film, leaving room for him to grow into a worthy opponent for Godzilla some 40 years down the movie timeline. Scaling up Kong to match Godzilla makes sense. It would be a short film if Godzilla stomped the big ape to death in the opening minutes. But how does that explain Godzilla's own growth spurt from 328ft in 2014 to 393ft today' And, crucially, is any of this based in science' There are some things the films get right. James Rosindell from the faculty of natural sciences at Imperial College London points to a theory called 'Cope's Rule' which holds that evolution will increase a species body size over time. "[Being larger] gives competitive advantages and is often naturally selected for," he explains. However, larger creatures need more food and typically reproduce at a slower rate, meaning few individuals can be supported by any one ecosystem. So Kong and Godzilla being the last of their species -- and Kong slowly maturing over 40 years -- fits the science. But that's about the only thing that holds together. It turns out that Godzilla and Kong's biggest foe may not be each other, but physics. Specifically, the laws of gravity and biomechanics. The largest animal alive today, the blue whale, is found in our oceans. "The size limit of aquatic animals is closely tied to the ability to eat enough food to sustain their chonky bodies," explains David Labonte, a researcher in the department of bioengineering, also at Imperial College. Labonte has a specific interest in the interaction between physical laws and body size. For example, why there are no climbing animals heavier than geckos that can cling upside down to smooth surfaces' When it comes to the blue whale, Labonte explains that their large mouths and a technique known as 'lunge feeding' enables them to obtain enough food to sustain their bodies. This has allowed some blue whales to grow up to 180 tonnes (Kong was around 158 tonnes in his last film). An aquatic environment bestows other advantages, namely, buoyancy. Having its weight suspended in water is one of the key reasons why the blue whale is able to grow so large. It's also the reason that when whales beach, the most common cause of death is internal damage from the weight of their own bodies. Gravity, then, is a problem our terrestrial animals are yet to overcome. It's the reason our largest land animal, the African elephant tips the scales at a relatively puny six tonnes.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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