ScienceShot: That's a Mite Speedy!

ScienceShot: That's a Mite Speedy!

Samuel Rubin/W.M. Keck Science Center, Pitzer College; Dr. J.C. Wright Laboratory/Pomona College; The Claremont University Consortium

Eat your heart out, Usain Bolt! Based on body size, a sesame seed–sized mite native to Southern California runs faster than any other animal on Earth, new research suggests. In high-speed videos taken both in the lab and in the field, the predatory mite Paratarsotomus macropalpis, a little-studied desert species first described almost a century ago, scampered as many as 322 body lengths in 1 second. That peak speed, as well as an average speed of 192 body lengths per second, handily tops the previous speed champ (the Australian tiger beetle, clocking in at a mere 171 body lengths per second), the researchers report today at the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting in San Diego, California. For comparison, a cheetah running about 96 kilometers per hour moves about 16 body lengths per second—and humans covering ground as fast as this mite does could run more than 2000 km/hr. Future studies of these mites (which pick up and put down each foot about 135 times a second) could help engineers develop superfast, superagile robots.

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