(Muhammad Mahdi Karim) Tiger beetle pictured in Kibaha, Tanzania, photographed by Muhammad Mahdi Karim.
Which Animal Is Fastest?
APRIL 05, 2010April Holladay, HappyNews ColumnistQ; Which animal is faster - a cheetah, kangaroo, or house cat?
Aditya, New Delhi, India
A: A cheetah is the fastest land mammal if you measure speed in kilometers per hour. Its top speed of 113 km/h (70 mph) beats a 48 km/h (30-mph) kangaroo or 48 km/h house cat.
But, if we consider the animal's size, the picture changes. Measuring how many body lengths an animal goes in a second, we find the house cat (29 body lengths) beats the cheetah, (25 body lengths), which beats the kangaroo (1 body length).
The tiger beetle (125 body lengths), however, is the supreme winner in terms of body-length speed. This little creature sprints so fast, it stops three or four times during a chase, but still manages to outrun its target, says entomologist Cole Gilbert of Cornell University.
"Tiger beetles pursue prey in nature with several sequences of interrupted running. To successfully track prey, adult tiger beetles use this stop-and-go method to re-localize continually moving prey within their field of vision," says entomologist Phyllis M. Pineda of Colorado State University.
Apparently, a beetle receives more information than he can process as he runs, so he reduces the information flood by stopping periodically. Now he need only to re-locate the darting, direction-changing prey with the part of his compound eye where his vision is most acute and head in the new direction. Finally, at the last and shortest pursuit, the tiger beetle seizes the prey with his sickle-like mandibles (the principal jaws) and eats it."
The speed of human sight, WonderQuest.com, January 2003
Foraging, Pursuit and Attack Mechanisms of Adult Tiger Beetles, by Phyllis M. Pineda, 1999.
Tiger beetles chasing prey go blind temporarily, Cornell News, January 1998
Speed of animals, Infoplease.com, March 1974