What is the fastest animal in the world? The answer is not simple! Many factors - such as gravity, wind and the size of the animal - must be taken into account. In addition, researchers have not yet determined the speed of each land species. In addition, there is still some disagreement within the scientific community about the methodologies used for some of the current rankings. However, we have managed to make a ranking of the 5 fastest animals!
The fastest bird: Peregrine Falcon - Max speed: 389 Km/h
The peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), also known as the sparrowhawk, is considered the fastest animal in the world. A bird of prey known as a "living missile", these falcons live all over the world, except in extreme polar areas and New Zealand. Falcons can reach diving speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. To date, the highest measured descent for a peregrine falcon is 389 kilometers per hour. When not hunting, peregrine falcons travel between 65 and 85 kilometers per hour.
Large keel bones, pointed wings, stiff feathers and an exceptional respiratory system all contribute to the peregrine's speed. Its large keel increases flapping power, the pointed wings create an aerodynamic airfoil effect, and the animal's stiff, thin feathers reduce drag. Peregrine falcons also have a unidirectional airflow in their lungs and air sacs that remain inflated even when exhaling, allowing for optimal oxygen distribution. In addition, the bird's heart rate of 600-900 beats per minute allows it to flap its wings up to four times per second, increasing its power and decreasing fatigue.
In addition to lightning-fast dives, these falcons have the fastest visual processing speed of any animal tested to date. They can spot their prey from over a mile away! To put this in perspective: If you show humans a succession of still images at 25 frames per second, we will see a smooth "movie. For peregrine falcons to experience the same "movie" effect, the rate would have to be 129 frames per second!
These birds are about the same size as crows
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently classifies peregrine falcons as "least concern". However, the species has not always been safe, largely due to the widespread use of the pesticide DDT, which can prove fatal to the falcon. During the 20th century, the species suffered massive losses due to this chemical and was added to the endangered species list in the United States. However, thanks to restrictions on DDT and other conservation efforts, the falcons were delisted in 1999.
Fastest land animal: Cheetah - Top speed: 112 KM/H
Found in North, South and East Africa, the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) holds the title of fastest land animal. A born sprinter, the cheetah can reach a top speed of 112 kilometers per hour. Even more impressive, the feline can accelerate from 0 to 86km per hour in just three short seconds! That's better than a sports car! 😲
Several physiological factors make cheetahs speed demons. For starters, they are the slimmest of the big cats, have long legs and a small, light head. These factors make cheetahs aerodynamic dynamos. Also, when cheetahs run, they don't move their heads, which adds to their aerodynamics.
The cheetah's backbones, however, are the backbone of the animal's speed. They are long, extraordinarily flexible and act like a coil spring that allows the animal to maximize each stride. Finally, the cheetah's muscles have a high percentage of what mammalogists call "fast-twitch fibers," which increase their power and speed.
Cheetahs, however, cannot sustain high speeds for long. They are sprinters, not marathoners. It can take a cheetah 30 minutes to recover from a 330-foot burst, the length of a soccer field. The largest cheetahs are 136 centimeters tall, 149 centimeters long and weigh between 21 and 72 kilograms.
Currently, the IUCN classifies cheetahs as a "vulnerable" species. Due to poaching, game hunting and habitat destruction in the 20th century, the cheetah population has dwindled to about 7,100 individuals. In addition, cheetahs are often exploited in the illegal pet trade, and climate change is proving devastating to the species.
Fastest mammal: Mexican free-tailed bat - max speed 160 KM/H
A recent and controversial addition to the Fast Animal Hall of Fame is the Mexican free-tailed bat, aka the Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis). Found in North and South America, the Mexican free-tailed bat is the official flying mammal of Texas. They live primarily in caves and sometimes in buildings with overhead access to the outside.
In 2009, researchers conducted a speed test of the species by attaching navigation tags to several animals. The scientists then tracked their flight speed using an airplane. The test revealed that one bat was whizzing through the air, horizontally, at 160 kilometers per hour. The results catapulted the Mexican free-tailed bat to the top of the list of fastest mammals.
However, not everyone is convinced of the result. Some people dispute the claim because the test failed to account for wind and ground speeds. In addition, the results left a margin of error of 50 to 100 meters. While the Mexican free-tailed bat loses its speed record, the animal still holds a bat superlative: it can fly higher than any other member of its order, the chiropterans. The winged mammals can fly at an altitude of 3,300 meters.
Mexican free-tailed bats are typically about 9 centimeters long and weigh between 7 and 12 grams (0.25 and 0.42 ounces). The IUCN classifies Mexican free-tailed bats as "least affected," but this does not give a complete picture. Due to increased habitat destruction, Mexican free-tailed bats are rapidly declining in numbers. California lists it as a "species of special concern."
The fastest aquatic animal: the black marlin - max speed 129 KM/H
The fastest fish is the black marlin (Istiompax indica). Resident of the tropical and subtropical regions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the black marlin can reach a speed of 129 kilometers per hour (80 miles per hour). In comparison, black marlins swim faster than cheetahs. To measure their speed, researchers measure how quickly a fishing line comes off the reel when anglers catch one.
The black marlin has several physical characteristics that catapult it to the top of the list of fastest marine animals. Its beak is long, thin and sharp - ideally shaped to slice through the water quickly - and the black marlin's rigid pectoral fins give it exceptional aerodynamics. It also has a large crescent-shaped tail that it skillfully maneuvers to create power.
In addition to swimming quickly, the black bear can travel great distances. One animal, which was tagged with a tracking device in California, was captured 10,000 miles away in New Zealand! They can also dive to depths of 610 meters (2,000 feet). However, black marlin generally do not go below 183 meters (600 feet). The longest recorded black marlin was 4.65 meters (15.3 feet). According to the IUCN, black marlin are "data deficient," meaning that there is not enough information to properly assess the conservation status of the species. However, it is fished commercially and sought after as a prized game fish.
Fastest insect: male horsefly - max speed: 145 KM/H
Horseflies (Tabanus sulcifrons), also known as horseflies, currently top the list of the fastest insects. Found all over the world, except in Iceland, Greenland and Hawaii, horseflies can reach speeds of up to 145 kilometers per hour (90 miles per hour). Male horseflies are faster than their female counterparts.
Like the Mexican free-tailed bat, researchers dispute the horsefly's speed. Jerry Butler, a scientist at the University of Florida, led the study that produced the 90 mph result. Some of his peers, however, believe that the methodology used led to the wrong conclusions. Those who reject Butler's findings generally cite the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) as the fastest insect, with a reliable rate of 21 miles per hour.
It should be noted that scientists have not yet done extensive studies of insect speed. So the horsefly's position is likely to change as research progresses. What we do know is that in the late 19th century, American entomologist Charles Townsend claimed that deer flies (cephalus stimulator) could reach speeds of 1,287 kilometers per hour. That's faster than the speed of sound! But after advances in tracking technology allowed for better studies, other entomologists burst Townsend's bubble. They proved that deer flies only reached speeds of about 40 kilometers per hour. Horseflies' bodies measure between 5 and 25 millimeters (0.2 and 1.0 inches), about half the length of a golf tee. The largest have a wingspan of up to 60 millimeters (2.4 inches).
Horseflies are so abundant that they do not have an IUCN classification.
Nearly 9 million species inhabit the planet. Some are fast, some are slow. Some are huge, some are tiny. But the one thing we all share is the same planet. So take the time to learn about other species, because the more you know, the more you'll be a guardian of the planet! Also, take the opportunity to visit our beautiful giant animal plushies!