Contrary to what might be expected based on their longer legs or bigger masses, the biggest animals are not the fastest runners out there. Instead, at least according to a new study, this title can be claimed by mid-sized animals, such as the cheetah or marlin.
Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany scientists, led by Myriam Hirt, are behind this new study. Their research results are available in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
The Biggest Animals on Earth Take More to Accelerate
The study is based on a new model which links an animal’s speed to its mass. Thanks to this, it is hoping to shine a new light on how the fastest animals on Earth can reach such speeds.
This scaling model can be applied to animals from both land, air, and water and is centered on the acceleration time. The team then used it to study more than 400 animal species. In analyzing the biggest animals on Earth, it also helped determine why they fall short of being the fastest.
Theoretically, an elephant could run with a speed of 60 miles an hour based on its body size and muscle mass. Still, it apparently also takes it a lot of time to accelerate.
Because of this, it is mid-sized animals that come closest to reaching their speed potential. The cheetah, marlin, and falcon are the fastest land, water, and air animals, respectively. According to this new study, they come the closest to reaching their body’s speed potential thanks to their “fuel tank”. This helps them maintain anaerobic running.
“The leopard or the jaguar have enough acceleration energy to make it all the way to nearly your theoretically maximum speed,” says Walter Jetz, a Yale University biologist part of the study.
The biggest animals on Earth need more time to accelerate, so they basically run out of fuel before even coming close to their theoretical maximum speed. Instead, they turn to aerobic running, which is slower and lower in intensity.
After testing this new model on live animals, the team then turned its attention to extinct ones. As such, it determined that the Tyrannosaurus Rex had a most likely top speed of just 17 mph. This is one mph faster than the top speed of most folk today.
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