The Fastest Animal On Earth Is Not A Cheetah
J Thoendell stashed this in Misc
IT MIGHT BE A FALCON, A SHRIMP, OR EVEN THE HUMBLE JELLYFISH. WE GO DEEP ON THE SURPRISINGLY COMPLICATED QUESTION.
You're right, that's a surprisingly complex answer:
So no matter how you slice it—top speed, acceleration, duration—the cheetah lags behind the competition for fastest animal on earth. The fastest animal movement belongs to the lowly little termite, the fastest cells to a jellyfish, and the fastest full-body move to a free-falling falcon.
But Patek would caution against closing the case file here. After all, these are only the fastest animals that we’ve taken the time to measure. Next year could bring in a whole new raft of contenders.
Humans... you are so RUNNING-CENTRIC!
Yeah, let's hear it for jellyfish and ants!
And if it’s acceleration you want, Patek has some speedy candidates. The mantis shrimp, for instance, has a spring-loaded, hammer-like appendage that it can cock and release like a crossbow. Once fired, the mantis shrimp’s Mjölnir hits home in less than three milliseconds. Translation: You could fit 90 mantis shrimp strikes into the time it takes a human to blink.
Jellyfish boast an even faster acceleration. When one of these slimy sacks stings you, it’s actually launching billions of microscopic venom harpoons into your skin at velocities comparable to a bullet fired out of a gun. According to a paper published in Current Biology in 2008, each of these explosive cells, called nematocysts, can discharge in 700 nanoseconds or less and create an acceleration of more than 5 million times the force of gravity, or 5,410,000 g.
Nematocysts "clearly rule" in terms of highest acceleration in the shortest amount of time, said Patek. "But, in terms of a high acceleration-driven speed, trap-jaw ants and termite jaws are the most impressive."
Trap-jaw ants are basically walking bear traps. Their mandibles ratchet open 180 degrees and then lock, relying on tiny sensory hairs to act like trip wires and tell the ant when to fire. According to Patek’s research, these mandibles close at speeds that reach 64 m/s (~143 mph). Best of all? When the going gets tough, this ant simply directs its weapon at the ground and lets the force of the mandibles ricochet it away from danger. Blastoff!