We learn from an early age that the fastest animal on earth is the African Cheetah, but how much attention do we pay to other creatures that, of their type, can easily compete with the big cat in their own environments? If size is relative to speed, then a creature one hundred times smaller than a Cheetah would be really moving fast if it could manage one mile in an hour. With that in mind, look at what nature has gifted some creatures with, in terms of relative rapidity.
1. Mammal -The African Cheetah
Not only is this big cat visually stunning, but the Cheetah is without a doubt the fastest moving example of mammal speed on the planet, capable, over short distances up to perhaps half a kilometer, of achieving running speeds of 70 to 75 mph. Not only are they able to reach such rapid movement, they have acceleration capabilities better than most sports cars, getting up to such speed within three seconds of a standing start. Obviously, being simple flesh and blood, such speed demands huge physical costs. The cat ‘s body temperature can reach levels dangerous to health , so a Cheetah always requires a long rest after hunting, often in excess of 30 minutes.
2. Insect – The mistreated Dragonfly
The ‘Devil’s Darning Needle’, as some people in England refer to it, is a creature believed, in Swedish folklore to be one of the implements used by Satan for the weighing of human souls. The unfortunate Dragonfly has been saddled with evil reputation that it has never done anything to earn. Collected as a hobby in the USA, especially in Texas , which boasts 225 different species. These avid collectors practice ‘Oding,’ which is the collection, study and release of Dragonflies. It is perhaps surprising that this is the case in one respect, because estimates have it that top speed for a dragonfly in flight is 20 to 40 mph, though larger dragonflies normally fly much faster. They are the fastest flying insect on earth.
3. Reptile – The Leatherback Sea Turtle
In the reptile world, nothing can move faster than a creature which looks , at first sight, like a real slowcoach. Leatherback sea-turtles power through the water with the use of their massive front flippers,the largest in proportion to the body of any sea turtle. As these beasts can grow to 9 ft in length, they can be quite intimidating. Less common in the wild than they once were, due, quite possibly, to the stomachs becoming filled with the indigestible plastic bags that litter the seas. Mistaking these jellyfish on which they usually feed, perhaps 30% now have plastic bags inside their guts, leading inevitably to premature death. These glorious creatures are not only the fourth reptile on earth today, but also the fastest-moving, as Leatherbacks t have been recorded swimming at 22mph, making it a really fast mover.
4. Fish – The magnificent Sailfish
Any seagoing sport fisherman will freely admit to having ambitions when it comes to snagging an example of the most glorious of ocean dwellers, the Sailfish. Found only in oceans where the waters are warm, these impressive creatures are normally colored blue grey, sporting an enormous dorsal fin, or sail, very often as long as the body of the whole fish. Sailfish also boast elongated bills, similar to Marlin and Swordfish, for which feature those sport fishermen refer to them as ‘Billfish’. Two distinct species, both maturing rapidly, reach 5ft in length within a year, quickly achieving adult lengths of 10 ft on average, weighing around 200lbs. Packs of Sailfish sometimes raise dorsal fins to help in herding fish shoals, and, having been recorded at speeds in excess of 70mph, are the fastest fish on earth.
5a Bird world – The White throated Needletail
In the bird world, which species can lay claim to top speedster is debatable, simply because there are differing ways of moving at great speed. White-throated Needletail, or simply Needle-tailed Swifts, which spends entire lives in flight, can rightfully maintain that they hold the record for speed in normal flight, where speeds of 105 mph have been recorded, faster by far than any other kind of bird can manage. Yet it is true to say that this swift mover is nowhere near the record holder for speed in flight. As a popular choice with falconry lovers for centuries, the Peregrine Falcon is undisputed speed king of the bird world. Quite simply put, the Pegerine is an ambush hunter, swooping from above to lock onto the chosen prey. During these hunting dives, the superbly streamlined Peregrines have been measured flying at 200mph, something no other creature on earth has ever managed to do.
5b Bird World – The Peregrine Falcon
So there you have them, fastest mammal, insect, reptile, bird and fish, all of which can leave we inadequate humans a long way behind in any natural race. Nature is so incredibly full of wonder that it is hard to know where to look next, but one thing is almost certainly true. No matter how much we discover there will be so much more to learn, and perhaps some things that are still hidden from us will remain so. Glorious, surprising, the natural world never fails to amuse ans amaze us. Wonderful.
All images used with permission. All information taken from wikipedia