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The fastest animal in the world is...?


Kevan Karanjia
Staff Writer

Friday, June 13, 2014, 3:12 PM - You may never have heard of it, or seen it for that matter but the Paratarsotomus macropalpis mite is the fastest land animal in the world. 

More commonly known as the California mite, researchers have captured the arthropod travelling around at approximately 30 centimeters per second. 

The mite – only the size of a sesame seed – travels at 322 body lengths per second. 

The measure is used to reflect how quickly an animal can move relative to its body size. 

If you were to translate that speed to the size of a human - assuming all variables remain constant, a person would have to run at almost 2100 km/h. 

The discovery was made by a California college student who spent a summer chasing the mites. “It’s so cool to discover something that’s faster than anything else, and just to imagine, as a human, going that fast compared to your body length is really amazing,” said Samuel Rubin, a junior and physics major at Pitzer College who led much of the fieldwork to document the mite’s movements. “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.” 

Rubin had help from Jonathan Wright, Ph.D., a professor of biology at Pomona College. The professor was analyzing the effect of muscle biochemistry on how quickly animals can move their legs when he began to notice the speed of the mites. 

“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.” 


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The previous fastest animal recorded was the Australian tiger beetle. It topped out at a speed of 171 body lengths per second. 

Overall, the cheetah still retains the fastest land speed at 98 km/h but in terms of body lengths per second, it only reaches 16. 

The fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt – he has the fastest human footspeed on record at 44.72 km/h but that only lasts for short sprints. 

The California mite is mostly found in the south and can often be seen along sidewalks. 

Little is known about their food source and habitats. Researchers used high-speed cameras in both a laboratory and its natural surroundings to record the mites’ sprints.

The findings were first revealed at the 2014 Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego. 

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