A Southern California mite (Paratarsotomus macropalpis), no bigger than a sesame seed, has won the title for the world's fastest land animal, according to a recent study. The report is published with the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
Using high speed cameras, a team of researchers from the Claremont Colleges recorded the mites' movements in the laboratory and in their natural environment. "It was actually quite difficult to catch them, and 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," Samuel Rubin, a junior and physics major at Pitzer College, Claremont, who led much of the fieldwork to document the mite's movements, said in a statement.
Rubin and his research team members recorded the mite running at 322 body lengths per second. Researchers measure body lengths as they reflect how fast an animal moves relative to its own body size. The mite has outperformed the previous record holder - Australian tiger beetle - which covers up to 171 body lengths per second.
In comparison with the mite, a cheetah can attain about 16 body lengths per second. The mite's speed is also equivalent to a human running roughly 1,300 miles per hour. "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," said Rubin. "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."
The southern California mite was first identified in 1916, but there are not many details known about its habits or food sources. During their study, the research team found the mites can run on concrete up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius), a temperature that will prevent most animals to do any activity.
The details of the findings were presented during the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting held in San Diego on Sunday (27 April).