Of course, we are talking relative to size, but yes, the humble and inconspicuous mite is a speedy, tiny creature among the entire animal kingdom. It is not just any mite around the block, either, because this sesame-sized arachnid can move like lightning. The mite that wears the leader of the pack title is none other than southern California’s Paratarsotomus macropalpis. You will be amazed at what scientists have been able to discover about the world’s fastest animal on earth.
Record broken: sorry, Cheetah
Scientific researchers are pretty bright people, especially when they can clock an animal’s speed at any size. It would sound ridiculous to compare a race between a mite and a cheetah, but it has been done thanks to the team at Pomona College in Claremont, California.
A new study discovered that the Paratarsotomus macropalpis is the speediest animal on earth. Those results were achieved by taking into account an animal’s size relative to its speed. In other words, body lengths per second were timed.
The tiny mite was clocked at moving an incredible 322 body lengths per second. Now, compare that to a swift cheetah running at 60 miles per hour. The numbers show that the cheetah only attains 16 body lengths per second.
For a human being to move as fast as the mite, the research team determined that we would be running 1,300 miles per hour.
Enjoys the urban landscape
The Paratarsotomus macropalpis is shaped with long legs and a body that is nearly twice as long as it is broad. The mite is often found scurrying along the rocks, sidewalks and cement of southern California during the hottest times of the day. In fact, the hotter the surface the better for these tiny creatures who have been photographed racing over searing urban surfaces of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Pomona College research squad opted to use high frame-rate video cameras to record the mites’ sprints.
Lead researcher Jonathan Wright, a biology professor, joked that they couldn’t actually chase after a mite, so they filmed the sesame-sized dynamos running on a concrete driveway, their natural habitat.
The mite was recorded to be so fast, that it stole the world title from the previous record holder, the Australian tiger beetle. That little guy can reach speeds of 171 body lengths per hour.
Special body layer advantage
So where does the secret of speed lie in this micro creature?
The scientists carefully examined the animal physique of the Paratarsotomus macropalpis and noted that it has an interesting outer layer that forms a seal around it to protect the arachnid from very high heat.
The mite uses its incredible speed to hunt for prey, but as of yet, the research team has been unable to capture the creature on video in the pursuit of hunting. It is difficult to record because they also do not feed often.
This mite doesn’t need muscles
The scientific team also concluded that a mite does not need strong muscles for accelerated movement. The scaling theory has always shown that the largest animals are not the fastest in nature. In other words, the smaller an animal is, the less force it requires to move rapidly.
Instead, a mite gets its power from mitochondria that produce the energy currency of the cells.
Team leader Samuel Rubin sees the study as important for future solutions in human wellness. “…looking deeper into the physics of how they accomplish these speeds could help inspire revolutionary new designs for things like robots or biomimetic devices.”