8 of the Fastest Marine Animals

When you think of the fastest animals in the world your mind probably goes to the cheetah or the ostrich… but there are a few marine animals that could give them a run for their money! Many marine mammals and fish use rapid speed as a way of hunting, or escaping danger. You would have to be very lucky to spot one of these speedy marine animals while scuba diving... Blink and you would miss them!

Here are eight of the fastest marine animals in the world.

1.Mantis shrimp

This little shrimp shows impressive speed through its attack. The mantis shrimp strikes its prey with a pair of modified forearms. It will spear soft bodied prey such as fish, using the spear-like ends of these forearms, or for prey with hard shells like crabs, it might use a smashing technique. These attacks can be between 4 and 8 milliseconds; the fastest movement recorded in the animal kingdom.

There are about 450 species of mantis shrimp around the world, and they are usually about 4 inches long, although some can grow up to 15 inches long depending on the species. 

2. Sailfish

Reaching speeds of up to 68 miles per hour, the sailfish has to be top of the list for the fastest fish! A carnivorous fish that weighs between 120-220 pounds, the sailfish can live up to 4 years, and can grow up to 11 feet long.

There are two main types of sailfish, the Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific. Sailfish are a blue/gray color on their bodies, with a white underbelly. They have an impressively high dorsal fin which spans almost the whole length of their body, which is where they get the name sailfish.

3. Swordfish

The swordfish has been known to reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour, earning it a worthy place on our list of fastest marine animals. They averagely grow up to 10 feet long, however the largest recorded was 14 foot 11 inches.

The swordfish gets its quite fitting name from its sword-like nose that it uses to slash its prey to make it an easier catch. It is unknown whether it is also used to fend off larger predators such as sharks, but this could be the case. Swordfish are often seen at the surface of the water, breaching and jumping into the air.

4. Marlin

Up there at the top with the sailfish, matching its top speed of 68 miles per hour, the marlin fish is definitely one of the fastest marine animals on the planet. Closely related to the swordfish, it also has a spear-like snout, and a long dorsal fin. Depending on the species, it can reach up to 16 foot in length and 1,810 pounds in weight.

In tropical areas, the marlin is a popular sporting fish. The Atlantic blue marlin and the white marlin are both considered to be endangered species, due to overfishing. Many species of marlin are pelagic and live in open-ocean ecosystems. 

5. Wahoo

The Wahoo fish is a pelagic species that can swim through the water at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. They grow to between 5 and 8 feet long, and are found in tropical and subtropical waters worldwide.

Wahoo are related to mackerel and are members of the fish family Scombridae. With a torpedo-shaped body, and a blue/silver color, the wahoo is quite beautiful to look at. Although the wahoo is caught in high numbers through commercial fishing, it has a prodigious reproduction rate which keeps it off the endangered species list for now.

6. Tuna

Both the Atlantic bluefin and the yellowfin tuna have been known to reach speeds of between 43 and 46 miles per hour. Atlantic bluefin are found in the western Atlantic, the eastern Atlantic, and throughout the Mediterranean Sea, and grow up to around 10 feet long. Yellowfin tuna are found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world, and can grow up to 7 feet long.

Atlantic bluefin tuna are dark blue above and gray below, with bright yellow caudal finlets, and a gold coruscation covering the body. Bluefin tuna can be distinguished from other tuna by the shorter length of their pectoral fins. The yellowfin tuna is a very dark metallic blue color, which changes to silver on the belly, and (as you can guess from its name) it has bright a yellow dorsal fin, anal fin, and finlets.

7. Orca (killer whale)

Orcas (or killer whales as they are also known) are a marine mammal that can reach speeds of 54 miles per hour. In the wild a pod of orcas will travel around 99 miles per day to forage and socialize. This is why they do not belong in captivity.

Despite their name, killer whales are actually the largest species of dolphin. They got their name from sailors who witnessed them hunting large whales. Males grow to around 33 feet long, and orcas can be easily recognised by their black and white markings.

Would you like to learn more about marine mammals? Check out the SSI Marine Mammal Ecology course. Here is what you can expect from it:

What to Expect From the New SSI Marine Mammal Ecology Course (divessi.com)

8. Barracuda

Nicknamed the "tiger of the sea", barracuda can swim as fast as 27 miles per hour, they reach these speeds in short bursts, in order to overtake their prey. Older barracuda tend to swim alone, whereas the younger ones are known to group together.

Known for their fearsome appearance, with sharp teeth, snake-like appearance, barracuda’s colors depend on the species, but can be dark gray, white, dark green, or blue on the upper body, with shades of silver on their sides and a white underbelly. Barracuda are found in tropical and subtropical oceans including the Atlantic Ocean, the Red Sea, the Caribbean Sea, and in tropical areas of the Pacific Ocean. 

These are eight of the fastest marine animals, but there are many more speedy creatures out there in the depths. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled while diving!