Is Cheetah No Longer the Fastest Land Animal?

By Anupum Pant

Read this for the answer to the question above

If you haven’t previously heard of the Betteridge’s law of headlines, also known as the Davis’ law or the journalistic principle, here’s what it says:

Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.

(Of course, you aren’t supposed to take the “law” too seriously.)

Did you see the headline for this article? So, basically you can read no further and still say – No, Cheetah still is the fastest land animal. But if you look deeper, things sure get interesting.

Absolute Speed vs. Relative Speed

To be specific, Cheetah is the fastest land animal because its absolute speed on land is the highest (112 to 120 Km per hour). When you measure absolute speed, you don’t take into account anything other than the speed. The weight or size of the animal doesn’t matter. Here, Cheetah is a clear winner.

But, when you do take into account the body length of an animal and measure the speed in terms of, number of body lengths the animal can cover in a single second, there are number of other animals that beat Cheetah by a huge margin.

Here’s a fact – When running at full speed, cheetahs can cover the length of up to 16 to 20 cheetahs in a single second. That’s pretty fast. The fastest humans on earth can do about 10 – 11 body lengths per second. [Source] Do you know what’s the fastest animal of you measure speed relative to their respective body lengths? Wait for it…

It is a mite. Yes, a tiny little 1-2 mm Californian blood sucker can cover up to 322 body lengths in a single second! Scientists just found out about it. Graphic designers who’ve used elegant cheetah silhouettes to represent speed in their graphics will have to use a tiny blood sucker now? How disappointing!

By the way, 322 body lengths in a single second of a sesame sized animal translates to just about 0.8 km per hour of absolute speed. But, imagine this. If it (the Californian mite) were the size of a human being (which it is not), it would have moved at a whopping 2,100 km per hour. I know the physics of it would have been different in case it were that big. Since it is not, we aren’t even putting in the effort to consider those details at the moment.

In case someone comes searching for the scientific name of this mite, it is called – Paratarsotomus macropalpis (I won’t remember that)

Other land animals “faster” than the Cheetah

  • The Australian tiger beetle held the record before they found out about the tiny mite. The beetle can cover up to 171 body lengths in a single second.
  • The household cockroach is pretty fast too. It does about 50 body lengths in a single second.
  • The ghost crab can run at about 100 body lengths per second.

All of them, much “faster” than the cheetah (in relative speed). And still Cheetah always wins the race because it is absolutely the fastest land animal. Still. Please don’t trust the click bait titles like:

Cheetah beaten to title of fastest animal in the world by tiny Californian mite

The Blue Blood of a Horseshoe crab is Precious

By Anupum Pant

Not-so-good Bunnies

Several years back large colonies of cute little rabbits were being maintained by pharmaceutical companies. These rabbits were used to find contamination in solutions that would be used to treat human beings. If the rabbits fell sick due to fever after being injected, the solutions were labeled as contaminated and were not injected into humans. If the rabbit had no fever after 2 days, the solution was deemed clean and could be used on humans.

However, pharma companies hated this process – not because they felt bad about harming cute bunnies, but the process was expensive and took about 2 days to give results.

A new discovery

A few years later, a scientist named Fred Bang was studying the circulatory system of a horseshoe crab – half a billion year old specie. He accidentally discovered some amazing properties of the horseshoe crab’s blood when one of his crabs died because its whole blood turned into a semi-solid mass.

He found that when the crab’s blue colored blood came in contact with a certain kind of bacteria, it got clotted into a semi-solid mass and completely trapped the bacteria.

And ultimately with the help of a scientist, Jack Levin, he developed a  process that could be used to detect bacteria contaminated solutions (contaminated with endotoxin). This process proved to be a boon to us humans.

The replaced test

Today the old bunny test has been completely replaced. Pharmaceutical companies love the new test because it takes about just 45 minutes to complete and costs much lesser.

Every year thousands of live Horseshoe crabs are made to bleed blue to take advantage of their blood’s unique properties. About 30% of these crabs die. The miracle blue liquid can detect contamination in solutions that are extremely tiny (even if the contamination is as tiny as some parts-per-trillion). 

The several liters blood extracted from these live crabs is used to save human lives by protecting them from contaminated solutions.

Every single person who has ever had an injection, has been protected because the blood of a horseshoe crab ensured that you got clean injections. Had there been no horseshoe crabs, we’d have been killing bunnies. Salute to the crab.


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Can Your Eyes Breathe?

By Anupum Pant

Wait! Who says eyes breathe

The transparent front part of the eye that covers the iris and pupil is called Cornea. Cornea contributes a lot to the focusing power of the eye. That means, light has to pass through it without obstruction. To do that it has to remain completely clear. Consequently, to remain transparent, it can’t have any impurities nor can it have any blood vessels – that would have made it less transparent.

Every organ needs oxygen to run the cell processes with the energy that comes by oxidizing nutrients contained in the cells. To receive oxygen, they need to have access to blood. Since Cornea does not have any blood vessels, it cannot receive oxygen from blood. So what does it do to stay alive?

It absorbs oxygen directly from the air through diffusion. Oxygen gets dissolved in the tears and then diffuses across the cornea. However, the amount of diffused oxygen is so less that it is just enough for only the cornea cells. This can’t be supplied to other parts of the body. And this is exactly the reason you would get yourself killed if you plug your nose and your mouth, expecting your eye would keep you alive by breathing in oxygen.

In a sense, you could call it breathing. But it isn’t exactly ‘breathing’. Breathing, according to the medical definition means:

The process of respiration, during which air is inhaled into the lungs through the mouth or nose due to muscle contraction and then exhaled due to muscle relaxation.

Clearly, as the oxygen received by cornea doesn’t come from the mouth or nose and never goes through the lungs, it cannot be called breathing.

Other ways?

Let us consider the second possibility. At the inner corner of the eye there is a very thin tube that connects to the nose. Through this tube (A.K.A the Punctum), your eye is able to drain off excess tears. Punctum is the reason, you have to blow your nose when you cry. Punctum is also the tube that enables this guy to squirt milk out of his eyes (By sucking it through his nose first) [Video – Pretty disgusting to watch]

Also, you can blow an extremely tiny volume air out of these corner eye holes. But, you can’t breathe in through them.


Although the cornea of your eye has the ability to absorb oxygen directly from the air, you cannot technically call it breathing.


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