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Cheetah No Longer World’s Fastest Land Animal

Cheetah No Longer World’s Fastest Land Animal

The cheetah is most often referred to as the world’s fastest land animal — and that’s the truth if you’re measuring by miles per hour. But that’s not really a fair measurement when you take the size of an animal into consideration.

For a more accurate measurement relative to body size, researchers also consider body lengths per second. And by this metric, the competition isn’t even close. The cheetah gets left in the dust, by a landslide.

That’s right, the rightful title holder for the world’s fastest land animal is not the cheetah, reports Wildlife Extra. Rather, the title belongs to an animal no bigger than a sesame seed: Paratarsotomus macropalpisis, a tiny mite found in Southern California.

The mites were clocked by California undergraduate college student Samuel Rubin, who spent last summer setting stop watches on these remarkable bugs. He found that the mites could traverse up to 322 body lengths per second, which is the equivalent of a person running at roughly 1,300 miles per hour! By comparison, a cheetah running at 60 miles per hour only reaches 16 body lengths per second.

In fact, the cheetah isn’t even in the conversation when considering speed by body lengths per second. Second place belongs to a beetle, which runs at 171 body lengths.

“It’s so cool to discover something that’s faster than anything else. Just to imagine, as a human, going that fast compared to your body length is really amazing,” said Rubin. “But beyond that, looking deeper into the physics of how they accomplish these speeds could help inspire revolutionary new designs for things like robots or biomimetic devices [using an imitation of elements of nature to solve complex human problems].”

Rubin’s advisor, Jonathan Wright, professor of biology at Pomona College in Claremont, California, first suggested measuring the mites’ speed after studying the effect of muscle biochemistry on how quickly animals can move their legs.

“We were looking at the overarching question of whether there is an upper limit to the relative speed or stride frequency that can be achieved,” said Wright. “When the values for mites are compared with data from other animals they indicate that, if there is an upper limit, we haven’t found it yet.”

In other words, the true Flash of the animal kingdom may still be out there. For now, though, Paratarsotomus macropalpisis is the lone title holder. The team had to make use of high-speed cameras to observe the lightning-quick mites in action.

“It was actually quite difficult to catch them, and when we were filming outside you had to follow them incredibly quickly as the camera’s field of view is only about 10 cm across,” explained Rubin.

Speed isn’t the only superpower that these mites possess. They have also been found running on concrete that reaches temperatures as high as 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which is significantly higher than the upper lethal limit of most animals. They can also stop and change direction extremely quickly. Researchers hope that studying how the bugs accomplish these incredible feats will lead to new insights into potential bioengineering applications.

article by Bryan Nelson

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Read more: Nature, Nature & Wildlife

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Kara, selected from Mother Nature Network

Mother Nature Network's mission is to help you improve your world. From covering the latest news on health, science, sustainable business practices and the latest trends in eco-friendly technology, MNN.com strives to give you the accurate, unbiased information you need to improve your world locally, globally, and personally – all in a distinctive thoughtful, straightforward, and fun style.

120 comments

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2:55PM PDT on Aug 25, 2014

All you have to do to be safe, is outrun the other human...

2:00PM PDT on Jun 20, 2014

The cheetah's still number one for me. I don't even want want to think about mites running and jumping all over the place.

5:29AM PDT on May 30, 2014

Is this a warning of our worsening environment?

9:05PM PDT on May 27, 2014

Now that is a mighty mite; but I'll stick with the cheetah, also.

7:59PM PDT on May 17, 2014

Interesting. That's pretty fast.

5:36PM PDT on May 16, 2014

thanks

8:34PM PDT on May 14, 2014

Ew... a mite. That doesn't set well in my mind. I'm keeping the cheetah regardless of the research.

11:20AM PDT on May 14, 2014

Still giving this one to the cheetah.

11:20AM PDT on May 14, 2014

Great article.

2:45AM PDT on May 14, 2014

ty

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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