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

So, What Does The Fox Say?

By Anupum Pant

One of the most popular videos on YouTube last year was a song sung by two Norwegian brothers titled, The Fox. I’m not sure what was it exactly that made the video go viral, which is not to say that it wasn’t funny.

I think it was those absurd lyrics dropped at a time when you expect something serious, made it so popular. With an infectious catchy tune, the lyrics of this song seem very childish and at the same time, it is sung in a serious tone.
Popularity kept aside for a while, the number poses an important question which not many of us must have considered – What does the fox say? Makes us go looking for answers, doesn’t it?

As scientists would put it, the question this song poses, is indeed a challenging one. It isn’t easy to generally vocalize the sound made by a fox. Also, foxes make variation of sounds for different situations. Moreover, that, there are varieties of foxes out there, makes it even more difficult to answer the question.

The high pitched bark:
For instance, the red fox, which is the most common variety of fox, screams in a high-pitched bark. It sounds like a woman screaming in distress. In words, it sounds like a YAAGGAGHHGHHHHH. And is exactly the reason we aren’t taught this at school. Imagine, the teacher teaching with a YAAGGAGHHGHHHHH in a classroom.

The bird like sound:
When they fight, foxes can sound like birds. Unlike the screams discussed above, these sounds aren’t heard for long distances. Little fox pups also make these guttural sounds when they play. The sound is called Gekkering.

The high-pitched howl:
When greeting a more powerful foxes, weaker ones make a very high-pitched howl that can be heard for several kilometers.

Apart from these broad categories, they make several other subtle variations for different situations. The video below has a good collection of fox sounds:

On that note

What do you think the Cheetah says? Most of us have seen a cheetah (probably at the zoo), but not many must have heard it talk. It may come as a surprise to you that Cheetahs chirp like birds. Or you could call it more of a cat-fight sound.

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