No matter how skilled at swimming they might be, human beings unanimously pale in comparison to these animals when it comes to speed. Here are 8 of the fastest swimming sea creatures:
8. Yellowfin Tuna
The yellowfin tuna is a species of tuna that usually lives in tropical and subtropical oceans worldwide, and is generally found in deep offshore waters. It’s one of the larger species of tuna, reaching weights over 400 lb, but is smaller than the Pacific and Atlantic bluefin tunas, which can grow up to 990 lb.
Yellowfin tunas were named so because their anal and dorsal fin, as well as the finlets between the fins and the tail, are bright yellow. They travel in schools with companions of similar sizes and even school with other tuna species sometimes. They prey on other fish, squid and pelagic crustaceans. Their body shape is adapted for speed, in order to capture fast-moving baitfish.
Yellowfin tunas can swim at nearly 50 miles per hour for prolonged periods of time, by resting their pectoral fins in special grooves along the sides of their bodies, therefore presenting a streamlined profile to the current. They are extremely strong swimmers because, unlike most fish, they are warm-blooded, so their muscles are always warm and ready to work. This is a feature that allows them to escape most predators. However, big threats for the species are commercial fisheries which harvest the yellowfin tunas by various fishing methods including pole and line, purse seining or longline. They are also a popular sport fish, being prized for their speed and strength when fought on rod and reel. Yellowfin tuna has been placed on a list of possibly endangered species.
7. Pilot Whale
Pilot whales are closely related to dolphins, and they exhibit advanced intelligence and social skills. There are two species of pilot whales: short-finned and long-finned. Although they are not distinguishable at sea, there are some differences between the two.
Long-finned pilot whales prefer slightly cooler waters, and are divided into populations found in the Southern Ocean, the North Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean Sea. The short-finned pilot whales live in temperate and tropical waters, and they are found in the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Both feed primarily on squid, octopus, cuttlefish and fish like Atlantic cod, Greenland turbot, Atlantic herring, hake, Atlantic mackerel and spiny dogfish. When they close in on their prey at great depths, pilot whales perform bursts of speed, reaching 47 miles per hour.
Long-finned pilot whales are larger than their short-finned relatives, reaching a body length of about 21.3 feet and a body mass of approximately 5,070 pounds. They both have a lifespan of about 45 years in males and 60 years in females.
6. Mako Shark
Mako sharks, also known as blue pointers or bonito sharks, may be found in waters all over the world. They are adapted to survive in cold water, but inhabit all the temperate waters, with larger concentrations in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, and also in the Mediterranean and Red Sea. Both short-fin and long-fin mako sharks are fast swimmers, but the short-fin mako shark is on record as the fastest-swimming shark, reaching up to 46 mph when executing bursts of speed. This occurs especially when they are hunting or when they feel threatened. Shortf-in mako sharks measure an average of 10 ft in length and weigh from 132 to 298 lb.
They prey mainly on cephalopods and bony fish like tunas, mackerels, bonitos and swordfish. Mako sharks may also feed on other sharks, sea turtles, sea birds and porpoises. They consume about 3% of their weight every day, and hunt by tearing off chunks of their prey’s fins and flanks. They have a lifespan of maximum 29 years in males and 32 years in females. The greatest threats for mako sharks are commercial fishing and sport fishing. They are harvested for their flesh, fins, oil, liver and cartilage, and even for their teeth and jaws, which are used as decorative objects or trophies. Mako sharks species is considered to be “Vulnerable” in the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. They are also a victim of bycatch.
In relation to humans, they can be dangerous. From 1980 to 2010, 42 short-fin mako shark attacks on humans were reported, only three of which were fatal, along with 20 boat attacks. However, this species does not usually attack humans unless it feels threatened.
Bonefish usually live in tropical and subtropical shallow waters, and can be found throughout the Caribbean Sea, from Hawaii to Peru, to San Francisco Bay in the Pacific. They have an elongated body, with silver skin and dusky, yellow, pectoral fins. They can weigh up to 19 lb and grow up to 35 in long. They feed with the incoming tides by moving onto shallow mudflats. They prey on mollusks, crustaceans, benthic worms and fry, which they crush with their powerful pharyngeal teeth.
Bonefish can swim at a speed of up to 40 miles per hour, for long periods of time. They move in small schools, with only about 100 other members of the species, where each member of the school maintains a constant distance from its neighbors. Bonefish have a lifespan of 19 years, but are often killed by sharks and barracudas that prey on them. Also, fly fishing for bonefish is a popular sport in the Bahamas and southern Florida, even though, as the name suggests, this fish is known for its large number of fine bones.
Barracudas are snake-looking-like fish that live in saltwater, in tropical and subtropical oceans worldwide, ranging from the Atlantic Ocean, to the Red Sea and Caribbean Sea. They usually swim near the top of the water and near coral reefs and sea grasses. They have dark gray, dark green, white or blue skin on their upper body, with silvery sides and a white belly. Barracudas have two dorsal fins, widely separated, which may be yellowish or dusky. Their heads are large and pointed, they have large jaw with an underbite in many species and fang-like teeth. They are known for their large size, some species of the barracuda reaching up to 5.4 ft in length. Their snake-like body helps them move easily through water.
They rely on short bursts of speed and can reach up to 47 miles per hour when trying to overtake their prey. Barracudas are predator fish that can feed on larger prey by tearing chunks of flesh. They usually consume jacks, small tunas, mullets, herrings, snappers, grunts, and they have been seen competing against needle fish, mackerel and sometimes even dolphinfish. They have a lifespan of 5 to 6 years, and their growth can be rapid. When encountering humans in the water, some species can be dangerous. However, there are very few reports of swimmers attacked by barracudas.
3. Mahi-Mahi (Dolphinfish)
The mahi-mahi, also known as dolphinfish, is found in off-shore temperate, tropical and subtropical waters worldwide. It has a compressed body with a single long-based dorsal fin which extends from the head almost to the tail. Its skin is vividly colored with bright blues and greens and golden on the sides and back. The mahi-mahi is easy to recognize by its iridescent blue pectoral fins. Its name, mahi-mahi, comes from Hawaiian word mahi which means very strong. Specimens can reach up to 3.2 ft in length and weigh an average 29 lb. Some of the largest ones rarely exceed 33 lb. They have a lifespan of maximum five years, but they rarely exceed four.
Mahi-mahi are among the fastest animal in the ocean, reaching up to 57.5 mph while swimming. They are usually found in the surface of the open ocean, and their agility through water comes from the shape of their body, which is slightly slender and long. Dolphinfish re carnivorous and feed on crabs, squid, flying fish, forage fish and mackerel, but are also known to eat crustaceans or zooplankton. The females are usually smaller than the males, and both are sexually mature in their first year. Spawning can occur two to three times a year, in waters averaging 83 degrees Fahrenheit, and females produce 80,000 to 1,000,000 per event. Mahi-mahi are sought for both recreational and commercial fishing.
The swordfish is recognizable by its long, sword-like bill, and its elongated body. It is usually found in tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, and usually swim near the surface of the water, to a depth of 1,800 ft. Swordfish usually reach an average 9.8 ft in length, with a reported maximum of 14.9 ft.
Despite being a large fish and weighing up to 1,430 lb, members of this species may reach a swimming speed of up to 60 mph. They use their speed and agility in water in order to catch the prey and injure it with their bill, in order to make for an easier catch. They feed on other pelagic fish like herring, silver hake, barracudinas, rockfish, mackerel or lanternfishes, but might also take crustaceans, squid or demersal fish. Swordfish do not swim in schools and are usually found basking at the surface of the water, airing their first dorsal fin and jumping.
While juvenile swordfish are eaten by a wide range of predators, adult members of the species have few natural predators, like killer whales or the short-fin mako. Swordfish spawn from November to February, and only in temperatures above 68 degrees Fahrenheit. They are usually harvested by various methods like harpoon fishing or long-line fishing. However, swordfish are powerful fighters when hooked or harpoons, and quickly dive to the ocean-floor and impale their bills into the sand up to their eyes. They usually do not attack humans if they are unprovoked, but can be very dangerous when harpooned. A Hawaiian fisherman was killed by a swordfish in 2015, after attempting to spear it.
1. Blue Marlin (Billfish)
The blue marlin is member of a group of predatory fish that live in all oceans, in temperate waters, and although there is a superficial resemblance to the swordfish, they are from different families. The species is also characterized by prominent spear-like snouts, or bills, as the name may suggest. Another distinctive feature is a long rigid dorsal fin, which can extend to form a crest. Some specimens are known for being longer than 13 ft and can weigh up to 1800 lb.
However, the blue marlin is best known for being the fastest fish known to man. It can grow up to 7 ft in length and weigh approximately 260 pounds, with an average speed of about 68 miles per hour. Billfish usually swim in the epipelagic zone of the open ocean, at the surface, sticking to the top levels of the water. Because they prefer to swim in warmer water, the blue marlins seasonally migrate closer to equator, as the seasons turn. They feed on smaller pelagic fish, small squid and crustaceans. They use their snouts to knife through a school of fish and then return to eat the injured prey.
Blue marlins are usually prey to killer whales, sharks, and are also killed by commercial fishermen. They are currently considered a threatened species because of overfishing. They have a relatively short lifespan. Females can grow up to 4 times the weight of males, and may live up to 27 ears, while male only live for 18 years.