Cheetah Dethroned By Tiny Mite As World's Fastest Land Animal
April 29, 2014

Move Over, Cheetah – This Mite Is Now The World’s Fastest Land Animal

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

While the cheetah is generally recognized as the fastest land animal in the world, scientists have determined that there is one type of mite that actually outpaces the large feline – provided you use the right measurement.

According to UPI reporter Brooks Hays, the Paratarsotomus macropalpis – a species of mite endemic to Southern California – is capable of traveling more body lengths per second than the cheetah. In fact, when speed is measured relative to body size, nothing on Earth is faster than this arthropod.

“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,” researcher Samuel Rubin, a physics major at Pitzer College, told Hays. “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.”

Paratarsotomus macropalpis
, which is approximately the size of a sesame seed, can travel approximately 322 body lengths per second, according to Mary Nichols of the website Design & Trend. The mite’s running speed is roughly equal to a human traveling on foot at over 1,300 miles per hour. In comparison, while the cheetah runs at 60 miles per hour, it travels just 16 body lengths per second.

The previous record holder for running speed using this particular measurement was the Australian tiger beetle, which The Economic Times said traveled at 171 body lengths per second. The research was presented Sunday during the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.

Rubin and his colleagues used high-speed cameras in order to record the mites as they moved both in laboratory conditions and their natural environment. He explained that it was hard to catch them, and potentially even more difficult to keep up with them using a camera with a field of view that was only approximately 10 cm across.

Furthermore, they were surprised to find that the creatures would run on concrete that was up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, well above lethal conditions of many types of animals. They also observed that the mites could stop and change direction very quickly – a phenomenon that they plan to investigate and potentially adapt for use in bioengineering applications, according to a statement released Thursday.

“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,” explained Pomona College biology professor Jonathan Wright, who assisted Rubin on the project. “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.”