Scientists have developed a mathematical formula that now helps shed light why some animals can run, swim, and fly faster than the others.
Acceleration, Body Mass, And Movement Medium
Researchers said that the link between animals and their top speed boils down to acceleration.
The acceleration time is dependent on the animal's body mass and the method the creature uses to move such as swimming or running.
Strength alone does not determine the animal's velocity since animals can only accelerate as long as they can use the available energy from their muscle tissue.
The mathematical model reveals that an intermediate body size is optimal for animals when it comes to speed. Animals that are too small do not have enough musculature and those that are too big have too much mass.
In the study published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, researchers reported that knowing only an animal's weight and the medium through which it moves (e.g., water, air, or land) would suffice for calculating its top speed with 90 percent accuracy.
Using the formula, researchers found that giraffes can hit 37 miles per hour, while bears can run up to 28 miles per hour for a few seconds before their large bodies would slow them down. They also found that the bluefin tuna, which can swim at speed reaching 43 miles per hour, is faster than the shortfin mako.
"We find that there is a 'sweet spot' in size for a given body and movement type — exactly where cheetahs, peregrines or marlins land — where the energy available for acceleration allows them to get closest to their maximum theoretically possible speed," said Walter Jetz of Imperial College London.
"The theory is simple, yet extremely powerful and allows us to make predictions across the animal realm of how optimised or not species are for speed."
Movement Speed Of Prehistoric Animals Such As Dinosaurs
The researchers said that the findings are relevant not just for wildlife biologists but also to paleontologists who are interested to know about the speeds of now-extinct prehistoric animals such as dinosaurs. Using the math model, the researchers found that the fearsome predator Tyrannosaurus rex was much slower compared with the pack hunters velociraptors.
"We think that predator-prey interactions can be one of the cases where we can make this very predictor useful," said ecologist Ulrich Brose from the University of Göttingen. "There's at least 40 million species on this planet, and there's many more interactions."