What’s the fastest animal of all time?


Asked by Denny B

The fastest animals are birds (high-speed flight is easier than fast running, and the latter is easier than fast swimming). The absolute champion is the peregrine falcon, which while diving (hunting stoop) can reach over 300 kilometres per hour (186 miles per hour). If you count true flapping flight (as opposed to diving), the fastest bird (and animal) is the white-throated needletail, a relative of the chimney swift which is found in the UK. It can fly at about 170 kilometres per hour (106 miles per hour). So what’s the big rush all about? Fast flying, running and swimming developed as an adaptation to catching prey or avoiding predators. Swifts fly
fast to catch enough insects in air so as to fuel their bodies, and their chicks while in nest. Cheetahs, meanwhile, run fast in order to catch fast gazelles.

Florin Feneru, Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity, NHM London