Cheetah

Cheetah (Photo by David Groves on Unsplash)

Move over Usain Bolt, because in the animal kingdom, speed takes on a whole new meaning! Forget sprinting at a measly 28 mph – these record-breaking creatures can leave you in the dust (or water, or sky) with their mind-blowing velocity. From lightning-fast cheetahs hunting down prey on the African savanna to majestic peregrine falcons diving from incredible heights, these animals rely on their extreme speed to survive and thrive in the wild. So, buckle up as we explore the top seven fastest animals on Earth.

The animal kingdom is brimming with speedsters across different habitats. We’re talking about fish that can zoom by speedboats, birds that plummet from the sky at breakneck speeds, and even insects with lightning-fast reflexes. Below is our list of the consensus top seven fastest animals in the world. We want to hear from you too! Have you ever encountered an animal with incredible speed? Share your stories in the comments below, and let’s celebrate the awe-inspiring power of nature’s speed demons!

The List: Fastest Animals in the World, Per Wildlife Experts

1. Peregrine Falcon – 242 MPH

Peregrine Falcon (Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash)

The peregrine falcon takes the title of the fastest animal in the world, able to achieve speeds of 242 miles per hour. These birds don’t break the sound barrier by flapping their wings like crazy. Instead, they use gravity as their accomplice, raves The Wild Life. In a blink of an eye, the falcon can plummet towards its prey, like a fighter jet in a vertical dive. These dives can exceed 200 miles per hour, which is the equivalent of a human running at over 380 mph! That’s fast enough to make even the speediest sports car look like a snail.

That prominent bulge of this falcon’s chest cavity isn’t just for show – it’s a keel bone, and it acts like a supercharged engine for their flight muscles. A bigger keel bone translates to more powerful wing strokes, propelling the falcon forward with incredible force, explains A-Z Animals. These birds also boast incredibly stiff, tightly packed feathers that act like a high-performance suit, reducing drag to an absolute minimum. And the cherry on top? Their lungs and air sacs are designed for one-way airflow, meaning they’re constantly topped up with fresh oxygen, even when exhaling. This ensures they have the fuel they need to maintain their breakneck dives.

These fast falcons might be the ultimate jet setters of the bird world, but they’re not picky about their digs. The sky-dwelling predators are comfortable calling a variety of landscapes home, as long as there’s open space for hunting, writes One Kind Planet. They can be found soaring over marshes, estuaries, and even skyscrapers, always on the lookout for unsuspecting prey.

2. Golden Eagle – 200 MPH

Golden Eagle (Photo by Mark van Jaarsveld on Unsplash)

The golden eagle is a large bird that is well known for its powerful and fast flight. These majestic birds can reach speeds of up to 199 mph during a hunting dive, says List 25. Just like the peregrine falcon, the golden eagle uses a hunting technique called a stoop. With a powerful tuck of its wings, the eagle plummets towards its target in a breathtaking dive.

They are undeniably impressive birds, with a wingspan that can stretch up to eight feet wide! Imagine an athlete being able to run at 179 miles per hour! That’s what a golden eagle achieves in a dive, reaching speeds of up to 87 body lengths per second, mentions The Wild Life. The air rushes past its feathers, creating a whistling sound as it picks up, hurtling toward its prey.

They also use these impressive dives during courtship rituals and even playful moments, states Live Science. Picture two golden eagles soaring in tandem, one diving after the other in a dazzling aerial ballet. It’s a display of both power and grace that reaffirms their status as the ultimate rulers of the skies. Their habitat range stretches across the northern hemisphere, including North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). So next time you see a golden eagle circling above, remember – it’s more than just a bird, it’s a living embodiment of speed, skill, and breathtaking beauty.

3. Black Marlin – 80 MPH

A Black Marlin jumping out of the water
A Black Marlin jumping out of the water (Photo by Finpat on Shutterstock)

The ocean is a vast and mysterious realm, teeming with incredible creatures. And when it comes to raw speed, the black marlin is a high-performance athlete of the sea. They have a deep, muscular body built for cutting through water with minimal resistance, informs Crosstalk. Think of a sleek racing yacht compared to a clunky rowboat. Plus, their dorsal fin is lower and rounder, acting like a spoiler on a race car, reducing drag and allowing for a smoother ride through the water. Their “spears,” those sharp protrusions on their snouts, are thicker and more robust than other marlins. These aren’t just for show – they’re used to slash and stun prey during a hunt.

Some scientists estimate their burst speed at a respectable 22 mph. That’s impressive, but here’s where the debate gets interesting. Some reports claim black marlin can pull fishing line at a staggering 120 feet per second! When you do the math, that translates to a whopping 82 mph, according to Story Teller. This magnificent fish calls shallow, warm shores home, their ideal habitat boasts water temperatures between 59 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. – basically, a permanent summer vacation!

The secret behind its impressive swimming prowess lies in its tail. Unlike the rounded tails of many fish, black marlin possess crescent-shaped tails, explains A-Z Animals. With a powerful flick, they can propel themselves forward with incredible bursts of speed. This marlin also boasts a long, thin, and sharp bill that cuts through water, offering minimal resistance as it surges forward. But that’s not all. Black marlin also have rigid pectoral fins that act like perfectly sculpted wings. These fins aren’t for flapping – they provide stability and lift, allowing the marlin to maintain a streamlined position in the water.

4. Cheetah – 70 MPH

Adult and cheetah pup on green grass during daytime (Photo by Sammy Wong on Unsplash)

The cheetah is Africa’s most endangered large cat and also the world’s fastest land animal. Their bodies are built for pure velocity, with special adaptations that allow them to go from zero to sixty in a mind-blowing three seconds, shares Animals Around The Globe. Each stride stretches an incredible seven meters, eating up the ground with astonishing speed. But they can only maintain their high speeds for short bursts.

Unlike its stockier lion and tiger cousins, the cheetah boasts a lean, streamlined physique that makes them aerodynamic. But the real innovation lies in the cheetah’s spine. It’s not just a rigid bone structure – it’s a flexible marvel, raves A-Z Animals. With each powerful push, this springy spine allows the cheetah to extend its strides to incredible lengths, propelling it forward with tremendous force. And finally, we come to the engine room: the cheetah’s muscles. Packed with a high concentration of “fast-twitch fibers,” these muscles are specifically designed for explosive bursts of speed. Think of them as tiny, built-in turbochargers that give the cheetah that extra surge of power when it needs it most.

These magnificent cats haven’t always been confined to the dry, open grasslands of sub-Saharan Africa. Cheetahs were once widespread across both Africa and Asia, but their range has shrunk dramatically due to habitat loss and dwindling prey populations, says One Kind Planet. Today, most cheetahs call protected natural reserves and parks home.

One thing remains constant, however: their appetite for meat. Cheetahs are carnivores, and their diet is a testament to their hunting prowess. Springboks, steenboks, Thomson’s gazelles – these graceful creatures are all on the cheetah’s menu. They’ll also happily munch on impala and duiker, and even the occasional wildebeest calf. But cheetahs aren’t picky eaters – if a rabbit, hare, or even a bird is within reach, it might just become a cheetah’s afternoon snack.

5. Sailfish – 68 MPH

Sailfish (Photo by Michael Worden on Unsplash)

Another impressive fish earns the fifth spot on our list of fastest animals. The sailfish slices through the water at speeds reaching a mind-boggling 68 mph, describes List 25. But sailfish aren’t just speed demons – they’re also globetrotters. These fish call tropical and subtropical waters home, cruising the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They prefer the vast expanse of the open ocean, but don’t be surprised to spot them closer to shore hanging out in bays and estuaries.

Imagine a fish with a secret weapon – a giant, colorful fin that bursts out of the water like a miniature sailboat. That’s the sailfish, a recognizable resident of the world’s oceans. There is a trick to this fin, though. While it might look impressive, the sailfish actually keeps their fin folded most of the time while swimming, shares Parade Pets. Why? Because streamlining is key! With the fin tucked away, the sailfish can slice through the water with minimal resistance, allowing them to reach impressive speeds.

And these fish aren’t loners; they operate like a well-oiled machine, hunting in schools that work together to outsmart their prey, states Animals Around The Globe. Using their incredible speed and agility, the sailfish herd their prey upwards towards the surface of the water. The water’s surface acts like a giant, natural wall, effectively trapping the smaller fish in a confined space. The fin acts like a giant rudder, allowing the sailfish to steer the school of prey in the desired direction.

6. Swordfish – 62 MPH

Swordfish aren’t just masters of weaponry, they’re also champion swimmers! These large, migratory fish crisscross the oceans at impressive speeds. They are recognized for their extensive bills, which can exceed five feet in length, writes says Animals Around The Globe. Scientists are still unraveling the secrets behind the swordfish’s surprising speed. But one thing’s for sure: it’s not all about brute force. There’s likely a complex mechanism at play, a combination of anatomy and physiology that allows them to slice through the water with minimal resistance.

Marine zoologists recently discovered a special organ located right at the base of the swordfish’s bill. This organ secretes a special cocktail of fatty acids – a kind of biological lubricant, offers The Wild Life. As the swordfish races through the water, this oily concoction forms a protective layer around its body, repelling water molecules and reducing friction.

This fish feels equally at home in the vast Pacific, the Indian Ocean’s warm currents, and the cool waters of the Atlantic, according to How Stuff Works. That’s the swordfish, a true globetrotter of the deep. These incredible creatures are known to embark on epic migrations, traveling thousands of miles across the oceans. Why all the traveling? It’s likely a combination of factors. Swordfish might be following food sources, searching for ideal breeding grounds, or simply taking advantage of the ocean’s diverse currents. They’re also equipped with an impressive tolerance for a wide range of water temperatures, allowing them to navigate from the tropics to cooler regions.

7. Pronghorn Antelope – 60 MPH

Pronghorn Antelope (Photo by Photo by David Thielen on Unsplash)

The pronghorn is North America’s hidden gem of speed. These small, hoofed mammals might not look like much at first glance, but don’t let their unassuming appearance fool you. Pronghorns are the second fastest animal on land. They can reach a staggering 60 mph in a full-blown sprint, offers Live Science. They’re built for bursts of speed, with a lean, aerodynamic body and a powerful cardiovascular system.

Pronghorns, also known by their scientific name Antilocapra americana, are built to traverse vast distances with both incredible bursts of speed and impressive stamina. But these animals aren’t just about short bursts of adrenaline. They can also maintain a steady cruising speed of 30 to 40 mph for long distances, taking incredible leaps and covering up to 20 feet in a single bound, praises Parade Pets. And here’s a cool trick: pronghorns are like built-in biological air filters. By keeping their mouths slightly open as they run, they take in extra oxygen, allowing them to maintain their impressive speed for extended periods.

Pronghorns aren’t actually antelopes. They’re more like cousins to antelopes and goats, a unique species that’s carved its own niche in the animal kingdom. Their incredible speed and endurance might be a gift from evolution, mentions How Stuff Works. Think about it – pronghorns aren’t exactly top-of-the-food-chain predators. They’re grazers, relying on speed not to catch prey, but to outrun them. With wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions as potential threats, the ability to disappear in a blur of brown fur could be the difference between life and death. So, the next time you see a pronghorn, appreciate it for what it truly is: a survivor, a marvel of adaptation, and a testament to the power of evolution in the face of constant challenges.

Sources used for our list?

Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. 

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1 Comment

  1. Malcolm says:

    Anna’s Hummingbird.

    Fastest animal on Earth