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Step Aside, Cheetah: There's an Unexpected Animal That's Taken the Top Spot for Fastest on Land

“It’s so cool to discover something that’s faster than anything else."

Photo credit: Shutterstock

While the cheetah can keep its claim to fame as fastest mammal on land, it is hardly the fastest relative to its size.

Photo credit: Shutterstock Photo credit: Shutterstock

When it comes to measuring speed in body lengths per second, the Australian tiger beetle took top seed for a while. But now even this insect has been replaced by an arachnid: a mite.

Paratarsotomus macropalpis, which is about the size of a sesame seed, was recently recorded moving at a whopping 322 body lengths per second. The cheetah, as a comparison, only runs 16 body lengths per second, though that equates to 60 mph.

If the mite were human size and could maintain the same number of body lengths per second, it would run about 1,300 mph.

“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,” Samuel Rubin, a junior physics major at Pitzer College who led much of the fieldwork about the mite’s movements, said in a statement. “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.”

Image source: Science Shots video Image source: Science Shots video

The mite is native to Southern California and is commonly spotted running on the sidewalk, which the scientists noted could reach up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite being somewhat common, given their speed Rubin said it was "quite difficult to catch them" on film. Watch the mite in action in this video.

"… when we were filming outside, you had to follow them incredibly quickly as the camera's field of view is only about 10 centimeters across," he added.

In addition to great speed relative to their size, the mites were observed being able to stop and change direction quickly.

News of this record was presented at Sunday's Experimental Biology 2014 meeting.

(H/T: Science Daily)

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