Can You Identify the Fastest Animals in the World?

By: Tasha Moore

Sailfish, also called marlin, are the fastest hunters of the sea. These aquatic creatures are abundant in Caribbean waters. Usually they spend most of their time hunting for small fish, like sardines, by herding the small baitfish into swarms, called "bolas," before devouring them.

Cheetah populations in Africa are shrinking largely due to loss of habitat, since as much as 77 percent of cheetahs dwell outside of protected areas. Cheetahs also face loss of antelope prey that people use for meat, the illegal trafficking of cheetah cubs and the threat of by speeding cars.

The grey-headed albatross habitually does one of three things while navigating the seas: rest, fly and forage. The speedy creature only breeds once every two years. The grey-headed albatross performs most of its activities during the daytime.

During the Middle Ages, only an emperor was allowed to own a gyrfalcon, the biggest falcon on the planet. At level flight, the gyrfalcon zips through the air, reaching speeds as high as 70 to 80 miles per hour.

Black marlin (Istiompax indica) is one of the world's largest bony fish. The females of the species can weigh as much as 1,540 pounds. The migrant fish dwell mostly within the tropical realms of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

In November 2018, a group of wild dogs destroyed a spur-winged goose and injured another at the African Savannah Exhibit at the Jackson Zoo in Mississippi when the facility was closed. The goose is related to the large waterbirds of sub-Saharan Africa.

Rock doves (Columba livia) are pigeons observed in many urban areas. The birds flock to large city buildings because the structures resemble the rock protrusions and cliffs of their natural habitats.

The frigatebird can travel through warm air currents over tropical waters for more than a week before landing on water or dry land. This bird cares for its young over the course of an entire twelve-month period, which is the longest of any bird species.

The Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) can reach speeds as high as 60 miles per hour. In the competitive pursuit of coveted moths, the bats have a reputation for thwarting sound signals made by other bats of their species.

White-throated needletail swifts shoot through the air with profiles that resemble cigars. The birds spend the majority of their time in the air sleeping, consuming insects with their beaks and mating. The birds touch ground to nest.

Dubbed the "soaring specialists" of the avian kingdom, golden eagles harness surging clouds of warm air with their broad wingspans to ride seamlessly for many miles in pursuit of prey. These birds can reach speeds close to 200 miles per hour when on the hunt.

In 2004 scientists documented the predatory behaviors of peregrine falcons that would patrol the top floors of New York City's Empire State Building several minutes before sundown. Lights from the building lured smaller birds that would crash into the tower and the falcons swooped to catch them.

India's blackbuck antelope can reach speeds as fast as 50 miles per hour. The Blackbuck Protection Committee Amulya Upadhyaya works diligently to prevent road accidents and poaching from compromising blackbuck populations in the region.

The blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) grazes lawn grasslands of southern Africa. The water-dependent creature has been observed walking without stopping to drink water for a duration of five days over approximately 50 miles of terrain.

The primary prey of the lion are wildebeests, zebras and antelopes, which are all faster than the apex creature. Lions, which can achieve speeds of 36 to 50 miles per hour, use the element of surprise and cooperative hunting tactics to seize swift prey.

The leaping springbok has been the symbol of the rugby team of South Africa since the 19th century. Through the years, the animal has come to symbolize the country, in general. Many of the nation's athletic clubs and even its military have borrowed springbok symbolism at some point.

Pronghorn roam the grassy lands of western North America. During recorded history, 50 percent of the pronghorn population have inhabited the U.S. state of Wyoming; however, the occurrence of pronghorn in the state has declined due to extensive drought periods and energy exploration.

Swordfish populations have severely declined over several decades, prompting legislation, such as the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, that sets strict hunting quotas for the species. Fisheries have limited the number of swordfish allowed to be delivered to port.

In general, all 340 species of hummingbirds are exclusive to the Americas. When Anna's hummingbird dives, it spreads its tail, which creates a chirping sound from 60-mile-per-hour wind speed.

The red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator) is as fast in air as it is in water. The seabird drives through water with webbed feet and strong legs. In the air, the merganser's maximum speed is 80 miles per hour.

The ostrich (Struthio camelus) is not only fast, but the bipedal creature possesses incredible endurance. The land-dwelling bird can run for 30 minutes at a steady speed of 31 miles per hour.

The bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps) is native to Australia. The lizard's sexual determination during embryonic development is greatly affected by incubation temperature, as is the case with many species of reptile.

As a result of a major green iguana overpopulation crisis in the Cayman Islands in 2016, Caymanian officials encouraged residents to eat the speedy creatures. Local chefs were tasked to develop new recipes that included the green iguana meat. The blue iguana is the territory's state symbol.

Western Pacific populations of the leatherback sea turtle have dwindled significantly over the past few decades. Some local communities of the Solomon Islands have instituted moratoriums on harvesting the sea creatures since the late 1990s, but their numbers continue to drop.

The venomous black mamba is the longest snake on the African continent. The snake measures eight feet long and can glide as quickly as 12 miles per hour. The black mamba only uses its speed to escape perceived dangers.

The komodo dragon is an agile creature that can swim and scurry with great speed. The giant lizard is a patient predator that bites larger prey and waits, sometimes for days, for its victims to submit to bacteria-infected wounds before the dragon carries out a full-fledged attack.

The yellowfin tuna's specialized muscle anatomy deep within its mid-body region is responsible for the bony fish's remarkable swimming speed. While slower fish have white anaerobic muscle fibers, the yellowfin tuna has red aerobic fibers.

Known as the fastest shark species, the shortfin mako shark can cruise at speeds as high as 60 miles per hour during small bursts of travel. A shortfin mako named "Carol" that was tagged near New Zealand traveled to the Figi Islands and back, journeying 10,000 miles in 11 months.

The hare does not immediately bolt when it first perceives the threat of a fox. The swift creature will remain standing, peering at it nemesis. If the fox moves in closer, the alert hare crouches and positions itself for a quick dash if attacked.

Founded in 1987, the American Greyhound Council was established to regulate the greyhound racing industry in the United States. Recorded speeds of racing greyhounds ranges between 32 and 35 miles per hour.

Jackrabbits avoid predators using speed, litheness and an ability to camouflage their appearance. Younger jackrabbit species also lack scent which hinders a predator's ability to detect them.

African wild dogs dwell in packs, which consist of 10 to 15 dogs, that are led by a female and male breeding match. Young pups remain in the pack for two years before breaking off to start their own packs.

The kangaroo's most proximate relative is the rat-kangaroo, whose fossils date back more than 26 millions years. Among most animals there is a positive correlation between speed and energy expenditure, but with the red kangaroo more speed does not result in a significant increase in energy output.

The U.S. registry for the American Quarter Horse started in 1941, but the breed is the largest in the country according to comparable registry data. Ancestry for the native horse dates back 300 years to first settlers of the Carolinas and Virginia.

Measuring at six and a half feet long and weighing 550 to 880 pounds, the Persian onager is the size of a mule and is the largest of the wild ass species. The onager uses its heels and teeth to fight.

A February 2019 study published in "PLoS One" journal suggests that a zebra's stripes are an evolutionary feature designed to thwart parasitic attacks. Data showed that fewer tabanids (horseflies) landed on zebras than on horses living under similar conditions during the same amount of time.

There were once roughly 100,000 wild tigers on the Asian continent, but that number has decreased to less than 3,500 in recent years. One reason for the sharp decrease is illegal poaching. Offenders also "speed-breed" tigers in order to harvest and sell their parts.

Unique surges of speed make the spotted hyena one of the most effective hunters of prey. The hyena wears down a gazelle's endurance during a long chase before building up speed to pounce on the tired animal.

A coyote invaded a Southern California playground one night in 2001 to stalk and then bite a young boy that had been walking with his family. When the boy first caught sight of the fearless animal, he threw his leather sandal at him and the animal chewed it.

The low surface density of hair that the African elephant possesses helps the creature endure intense heat for long time intervals. The hairs regulate the elephant's body temperature by 5 percent and up to 23 percent under low wind speeds.

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Image: Don Farrall/DigitalVision/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Humans can tolerate most creatures as long as there is a safe distance in between, right? But what do we do about those brutes who can narrow that gap within minutes? It's time that you take this critter test to identify which animals of the world are the fastest. 

Get up to speed on the latest science that's surfaced about the zebra's evolved stripes and the yellowfin tuna's dynamic anatomy. The kangaroo has figured out how to expend less energy the more it moves. Take this opportunity to think about how amazing nature really is. These and other countless reasons are why conservationists work so diligently to preserve the fastest animals on the planet. But can you think of a reason why territories may not want to conserve its fastest animal population? You'll notice that the Cayman Islands had a reason, good or bad.

If you had the ability to outpace most living things, how tempting would it be to demonstrate your speed skills every chance you got? Some of the fastest creatures are also the smartest. They only use their speed when it's absolutely necessary. These animals are ever-conscious of the need to conserve energy. Find out more about this and other speedy animal facts in just a few quick scrolls!

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