The list of the top 10 fastest land animals has a new entry, and it's in the number one spot, according to a recent study.
The mite Paratarsotomus macropalpis, although no bigger than a sesame seed, was recently recorded running at up to 322 body lengths per second, a measure of speed that reflects how quickly an animal moves relative to its body size.
Extrapolated to the size of a human, the mite's speed is equivalent to a person running roughly 1,300 miles per hour. The findings will be presented at the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting in San Diego.
"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," project leader Samuel Rubin, a junior and physics major at Pitzer College, said. "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."
The mite knocked the Australian tiger beetle out of the number one spot. According to Rubin and his adviser Jonathan Wright, who is a professor of biology at Pomona College, the Australian tiger beetle tops out at 171 body lengths per second. That's over 22 times the speed of former Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson.
The wind scorpion is not a true scorpion, but instead is an arachnid related to spiders, mites, ticks and actual scorpions. The wind scorpion runs at about 10 mph, which is several dozen body lengths per second.
This list of the fastest land animals, compiled by the researchers, takes into account both absolute speed and relative speed. The list is restricted to land animals since, as Wright and Rubin explain, overcoming gravity by buoyancy (in water) or lift (in air and water), as well as other factors, affects how fast an animal is.
It's no wonder that homeowners have such a difficult time catching cockroaches. The American cockroach has been clocked at running 3.4 mph, which is about 50 body lengths per second. That's comparable to a person running 210 mph.
Cheetahs are the fastest land animals on record, in terms of absolute speed (not accounting for size). They can run 75 mph and can accelerate to 62 mph in three seconds.
The springbok is a medium-sized brown and white antelope-gazelle of southwestern Africa. It reaches speeds up to 62 mph and can leap 13 feet in the air.
"Speed in most of these species is apparently an adaptation to run down or ambush fast-moving prey, or to evade predators—the classic example of an evolutionary 'arms race,'" Wright told Discovery News. The springbok falls into the latter category, hoping to escape swift-moving predators.
The pronghorn antelope can run 55 mph, but it has at least one skill over that of cheetahs. It sustains high speeds longer than cheetahs can, giving this speedy prey animal an edge over fast running big cats, at least under certain circumstances.
This lion was photographed while it was hunting warthogs in the western corridor of the Serengeti. Lions can run up to 50 mph. Most big cats, and housekitties too (that aren't couch potatoes), are fast runners.
The blackbuck antelope.
The blackbuck antelope, native to India, has been measured running 50 mph. Because of the male's impressive horns, it is unfortunately one of the most popular trophy animals for hunters. Ranches in states like Texas often keep the blackbuck antelope for hunters to pursue.
House centipedes, with their many legs, can really move. They have been clocked at sprinting 420 mm per second. If they were human-sized, that would be about 42 mph.
Based on Rubin and Wright's research, other insects, such as ants and other mite species, gain honorable mention for also being speedy.
"Data are actually quite scant" at the moment, Wright told Discovery News. As he, Rubin and other researchers continue to study how fast animals move, this Top 10 list could change with another contender moving to the head of the pack.