Most kindergarten students would tell you with a smile that the cheetah is the worlds fastest land animal. Although this is true when making broad comparisons, when the relative size is considered alongside speed - the cheetahs speedy ways are dwarfed by arthropods. A study in recent years elucidated the incredible speed of an Australian tiger beetle, and has been smashed again by a creature no bigger than a sesame seed; Paratarsotomus macropalpis!
This tiny mite was recorded at cruising speeds exceeding 171 body-lengths/second. To put this into perspective; if the mite is human size it would clock in at more than 2,100 km/h. The research team conducting the study believe this could have important implications for the study of muscle physiology, along with potential applications for bio-engineering.
This study continues to show the importance of looking at smaller organisms. This mite is common within urban, and natural environments alike. Found zooming across paved surfaces, or along the side of rocks. It's not always necessary to explore the Amazon or the Serengeti to uncover the wonderful mysteries of the animal world; sometimes they're just beneath our feet.
Mr Rubin, his advisor Prof Jonathan Wright of Pomona College, and their colleagues used high frame-rate video cameras to record the mites’ sprints in the lab and in their natural environment. They were very surprised to find that the Paratarsotomus macropalpis’ speed is equivalent to a human running roughly 2,100 km per hour.