A tiny mite no larger than a sesame seed holds the record as the fastest land animal in the world, according to new research, when measured in proportion to its size.
While the cheetah is commonly thought of as one of the speediest creatures in the animal kingdom, and moves at 16 body lengths per second, the Paratarsotomus macropalpis trounces the big cat with a whopping 322 body lengths per second, according to a study by Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. This is almost twice as quick as what was previously believed to be the fastest animal, the Australian Tiger Beetle, which moves at 171 body lengths per second.
Because of the mite's minuscule proportions and inordinately fast pace, the research team was unable to use traditional means of measuring its velocity. “We can’t actually chase after a mite because they move much too quickly for that,” said Jonathan Wright, lead researcher of the study. “We’re actually filming them running on a concrete driveway.”
After gathering the footage, the researchers then replayed the film to find that the mite’s speed exceeded their expectations and that it was also able to quickly switch its direction.
The findings were presented at the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting in San Diego on Sunday.