What Is the Fastest Animal on Earth?

Discover the surprising speeds of the fastest animals on Earth and how their bodies have adapted for this swift movement.

Mar 23, 2023By Donna Hobson
fastest animal on earth

Ask someone what the fastest animal on Earth is, and the majority will tell you it’s a cheetah. While it’s true that these are the fastest land animals, reaching impressive running speeds of up to 120km/h, they are not the fastest animals on Earth.

There are birds, fish, and other mammals that can all travel faster than the cheetah. Continue reading to discover the fastest land, air, and sea animals and learn which animal takes the crown for being the fastest on Earth.

Fastest Land Animals

cheetah running across the savannah
Credit: Image by DrZoltan on Pixabay

Cheetahs are fast, strong, and agile animals that can reach speeds of up to 120 km/h in short bursts (for around 20-30 seconds), covering distances up to 500 m (1,640 ft). Cheetahs are found mainly in eastern and southern Africa and a few parts of Iran. They live in grasslands and savannas, where they hunt by day.

Cheetahs have several adaptations that allow them to run so fast. One of these adaptations is their flexible spine, enabling them to take turns at high speeds without risking injury. Another adaptation is their large nostrils, which allow them to take in more oxygen and keep cool while running at high speeds.

The cheetah’s long tail helps it balance when it runs and also acts as a rudder when turning corners at high speed. The cheetah also has a unique foot design with large, splayed toes that act like springs when the animal runs, absorbing the shock of each stride and allowing it to run faster than other animals its size.

pronghorn deer standing in grass
Credit: Image by David Mark on Pixabay

Pronghorns are the only mammals in North America that outrun a cheetah. This is because they have a unique adaptation that allows them to store and reuse energy during their sprints. While their maximum speed is lower than a cheetah (89 km/h compared to 120km/h), they can maintain it for much longer, making them the fastest long-distance runner in the animal kingdom.

Pronghorns have evolved to survive in various habitats, from deserts and prairies to mountain slopes and forests. Adaptations for speed include long thin legs for fast running, a streamlined body for reduced wind resistance, and large nostrils that help them breathe while running at high speeds. Pronghorns use their speed as a defense mechanism.

Fastest Animal in the Air

peregrine falcon
Credit: Image by 승목 오 on Pixabay

Peregrine falcons are the fastest animal on earth. They can reach diving speeds of up to 390 km/h per and fly up to 3,500 feet in the air. They are also known as "Duck hawks" because they mostly prey on ducks, but they will also eat small birds, mammals, and reptiles.

A peregrine falcon is a bird that belongs to the Falconidae family. These birds' habitats are on all continents, excluding Antarctica. They are usually brown with a white underbelly and have a wingspan between 74 cm and 120 cm.

The wings are long and pointed, with a large surface area for catching the air. The tail is short and square, which provides stability. The beak is hooked to catch prey, and the talons are curved for gripping prey.

Fastest Animals in the Sea

black marlin leaping out of the sea
Credit: Image from Black Marlin | Marlin Magazine

The fastest fish in the ocean is a hotly debated topic; while the sailfish is commonly regarded as the fastest fish in the world, other reports suggest that the Black Marlin could be even faster. The Black Marlin is a species of marlin that lives in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.

The Black marlin is a large fish that can grow up to five meters long and weigh more than 700 kg. They live in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. A black marlin has a streamlined body that is designed for speed. They have a long, narrow bills with small razor-sharp teeth that can help them catch prey. They also have a powerful tail to propel themselves through the water quickly and efficiently.

Sailfish swimming through the ocean
Credit: Image from Sailfish – the fastest fish in the world? | DinoAnimals.com

Sailfish are a type of fish found in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; they are sleek, fast swimmers and can reach speeds of up to 110 km/h.

The sailfish's body has evolved to streamline quickly through the water while maintaining its speed. It can also change direction quickly by flipping its tail fin or by rotating its body in the opposite direction of the turn it wants to make. The sailfish has a long and thin body, which gives it an aerodynamic advantage in the water. It also has a long bill that helps to streamline its body and reduce drag.

Fastest Amphibian

natau salamander andean salamanda
Credit: Image from Wikimedia Commons

Nauta Salamanders - also known as Andean Salamanders - are amphibians that live in the Andean regions of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.

It is the fastest known salamander in the world, with a body adapted for speed. The Nauta Salamander can move at speeds of up to 24 km/h, which is faster than the average human walking speed.

The Nauta Salamander has a streamlined body shape with a long tail that helps it swim through the water and keep its head above the surface. It also has webbed feet and soft skin to help it move quickly in water; these factors allow the salamander to swim at speeds of up to 24km/h.

Fastest Reptile

perentie lizard
Credit: Image by Bruce McLennan on Pixabay

Perentie lizards are only the fourth largest lizard in the world, following the Komodo Dragon, Water Monitor, and Tree Crocodile. Still, they are the largest lizards in Australia and can grow up to 2.5 meters in length. They live in the arid and semi-arid parts of Australia and feed on insects, small mammals, birds, reptiles, and other invertebrates.

Perentie lizards have a strong sense of smell, which is how they find their prey. They also have excellent eyesight, which helps them hunt for food. The perentie lizard can run at speeds of up to 40km/h using all four legs or just its hind legs.

Fastest Mammal

Mexican Free Tailed Bat
Credit: Image by Rudmer Zwerver on Shutterstock

Mexican free-tailed bats are one of the most common bats in North America. They live in caves, abandoned mines, and other dark places. They are also known as Mexican long-nosed bats, Mexican fruit-eating bats, or American free-tailed bats.

You can identify these creatures by their large ears, brown bodies with white stripes on their forearms, and a wingspan that is about 28cm long. They are known for being fast flyers and can reach reported speeds of up to 160km/h. Bats use their speed for many different purposes such as catching prey, avoiding predators, and finding roosts.

Donna Hobson
By Donna Hobson

Donna believes that keeping a pet is the key to a happy life. Over the years, many creatures have passed through her home - Sooty the cat, Millie the rabbit, Stuart (Little) the guinea pig, and Trixie the tortoise, alongside her pet goldfish, Zippy, who lived to the grand old age of 24 years! She currently resides with her black kitten Jinx and an aquarium full of fish and snails to entrance them both. When she is not looking after her pets, Donna enjoys researching and writing the answers to all your pet-related wonders.