Small Mite Is World's Fastest Land Animal, Size-For-Size

This is one fast invertebrate

Step aside, cheetah

Cheetahs are still the world's fastest absolute land animals. But relative to their body size, a small Southern Californian mite has them beat.Joachim Huber via Wikimedia Commons

A small mite native to Southern Californian is the world's fastest animal, at least relative to its body size, researchers announced on Sunday (April 28). Known as Paratarsotomus macropalpis, it can travel 322 body lengths in a second. That is one mighty mite.

Here is how that speed would translate into human terms, as noted in the International Business Times:

If a human could cover 322 body lengths in one second, she would be traveling at 1,300 miles per hour. At that speed, a human runner could circle the Earth in less than 20 hours – or make a round trip from San Francisco to Washington state for a cup of Seattle’s finest coffee in about 75 minutes. In that regard, cheetahs top out at about 16 body lengths per second, [or] roughly 70 miles per hour.

The previous record-holder for fastest (relative) speed was the Australian tiger beetle, which topped out at 171 body lengths per second, Science Magazine reported.

The mite's speed was documented by researchers using a high-speed camera and results were presented at the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting in San Diego, and in the FASEB Journal. The mite can also stop and change directions quickly, and can survive on asphalt reaching temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than most creatures can withstand.

A better understanding of how the mite does its thing could lead to better designs for tiny robots, the scientists said.