Museum at Home

Animal Athletes Challenge 1 | Archery

Greatest Human Achievement

According to the Guinness World Records, the farthest accurate shot in archery was 283.47 m by Matt Stutzman from Texas, USA on 9 December 2015.

Animal Competitor 1: Archerfish

Amazing ability

The Archerfish uses their 'built-in water pistol' to shoot their prey off overhanging branches.

Built for sharp shooting

  • Compresses its gill cover to spit water through a barrel made by its tongue and the roof of its mouth. When the insect lands in the water, the Archerfish grabs it and eats it. Yum!
  • Forward-facing eyes for better depth perception
  • Can compensate for the refraction of light at the water/air interface
  • Young archerfish start shooting when they are about 2.5cm long but they are not very accurate

Where do they live?

Archerfish live in freshwater, estuaries and mangroves. 

Animal Competitor 2: Spiny-tailed Gecko

Amazing ability

The Spiny-tailed Gecko squirts liquid from tail for defence against threats or predators.

Built for not-so-sharp shooting

  • If threatened, squirts out sticky, smelly liquid from glands along the top of its tail. The liquid dries quickly to look like cobwebs.
  • Can squirt up to 50 cm, but not very accurate

Where do they live?

The Northern Spiny-tailed Gecko lives in the dry country of western Queensland.

At Home Challenge

You will need:

  • Animal Athletes Challenge Sheet 
  • A water pistol. You may have one at home or for instructions on how to have some fun making one see below.
  • Archery target

What to do:

  • Make an archery target and attach it to somewhere outside that can get wet (eg. tree, fence, post, wall of house).
  • Stand about 3 metres away from the target.
  • Squirt at the target.
  • Notice where it hits and record the points.
  • Do this two more times.
  • Add up the three numbers to give your archery score.
  • Record your score on your Challenge Sheet

To make this activity into a scientific experiment you need to identify a variable:

  • Try using your other hand. Is this less accurate or the same?
  • Try standing with your back to the target and squirt through your legs (upside down).
  • Stand further away from the target. How does this change your accuracy?
  • Does you accuracy improve with practice?

Video your results, post them online and tag #museumoftropicalqld #qldmuseum

At Home Activity

Make a your own water pistol

You will need:

  • soft plastic bottle with lid
  • water
  • pin or needle to make a small hole in the bottle
  • food dye (optional)

What to do:

  • With a grown ups help, put a small hole in the bottle with a pin about 5 cm from the bottom.
  • Fill the bottle with water.
  • Put food dye in the water if you like.
  • Quickly screw on the lid very tight. If the lid is tight very little water will come out of the hole.
  • Go outside.
  • Aim at a target. (Not the dog or a person – unless you ask first!)
  • Squeeze the sides of the bottle.

Quick note:

  • You could try putting a hole in the lid instead of the side but this is a little harder as the plastic is usually tougher. It also stops working when there is no water pushing on the lid.

What’s happening?

  • When you squeeze the sides of the bottle, the volume (space) inside the bottle is reduced so the water (which can’t be squeezed like air) has to go somewhere, so it goes out the hole. 

Image credits: MJ Photography and Vojtech Vita / Flickr