The Ocean’s Fastest Animals

Like the cheetah on land, some marine mammals can reach impressive speeds underwater. And since water is 750 times denser than air, one might think that it’s impossible attain on-land velocity underwater. But don’t underestimate the sheer power of marine mammals, as they too are able to blast through the water like a Ferrari on an airport runway. Let’s take a look at 10 of the ocean’s fastest animals.


No. 1 on the list is the super-speedy sailfish. While it doesn’t necessarily swim at heightened speed all the time, its fastest leap has been recorded at 68 mph (109 kph). These amazing creatures live in both warm and temperate waters and grow very quickly. They can reach between 4 and 5 feet long (1.2 to 1.5 m) in one year. They can also raise the ‘sail’ on their back to look larger and intimidating when faced with a threat.


Like the sailfish, the swordfish can swim at 60 mph (97 kph) when leaping. They typically live in warm, tropical parts of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. Their habitat ranges from near the surface to a depth 1,800 feet (550 m). They’re a large fish as well, commonly reaching nearly 10 feet (3 m) in length. They’re also a quite heavy fish, with the heaviest ever recorded weighing an astonishing 1,430 pounds (650 kg).


The third Olympic swimmer of the seas is the marlin, which is able to reach 50 mph (80 kph), again when leaping. The largest of the bunch, the Atlantic blue marlin, can reach 16.4 feet (5 m) in length and can weigh a whopping 1,803 pounds (818 kg). The marlin family tends to stick to tropical waters, where they often fall prey to sportfishermen.

Yellowfin tuna

Yellowfin tuna can leap at speeds of 50 mph (80 kph), which they achieve by folding their fins into indentations. There are several tuna species, but the yellowfin is among the largest. These enormous fish can weigh over 400 pounds (180 kg), and usually live in tropical and subtropical parts of the ocean.

Bluefin tuna

Bluefin specifically the Atlantic bluefin tuna, is the largest of the tuna species, and can exceed 990 pounds (450 kg) in weight. Though large, it is still a master leaper, boasting speeds of up to 43 mph (69 kph). They have been known to dive to depths of 1,600 feet (500 m). Fully mature adults average between 6.6 and 8.2 feet (2 to 2.5 m) long and weigh approximately 500 to 550 pounds (225 to 250 kg). Bluefin tuna are under severe threat of extinction due to overexploitation by commercial fisheries.

Pilot whale

The pilot whale is in fact the second-largest dolphin and can leap at speeds of up to 47 mph (76 kph). It can dive as deep as 1,640 feet (500 m), and normally feeds on squid, octopus, fish and various crustaceans. Sadly, pilot whales beach themselves the most often around the world, though nobody knows why. Pilot whales live in seas around the world, and are exceptionally sociable and intelligent.

Mako shark

The mako shark is the fastest shark on earth, swimming up to 47 mph (76 kph). An adult mako shark normally measures between 10 and 12 feet (3.2 and 3.8 m) long, and can weigh from 132 to 300 pounds (60 kg to 135 kg). Females can be slightly heftier, reaching up to 330 pounds (150 kg). Though they are now a vulnerable species, these lightning-fast sharks inhabit all the world’s oceans.

Flying fish

The Flying Fish is a rather comical species. It is able to leap out of the water and glide through the air, hence its appropriate name. When ‘flying’, this impressive critter can cruise at 35 mph. They can even fly so high out of the water that they accidentally end up on the decks of boats and ships (accidental suicide!) These aquatic airplanes tend to inhabit tropical and subtropical oceans all around the world.

Killer whale (orca)

Next up is the largest member of the dolphin family, the killer whale, also known as an orca. They can leap at 34 mph (55 kph), which remarkable given their weight. Males range from 20 to 26 feet (6 to 8 m) long and weigh around 6.5 tons. Females are generally smaller, ranging from 16 to 23 feet (5 to 7 m) and weighing approximately 3.3 to 4.4 tons. These mammals are kings and queens of the seas, as they have no predators. If healthy, they can live up to 80 years.

Black marlin

Finally, prepare yourself for this one, as a black marlin’s highest ever-recorded speed can rival your highway driving speeds. Of all the marlins, this one is thought to be the fastest of them all. Amazingly, a hooked black marlin was once recorded stripping the line off a fishing reel at 120 feet per second (82 mph). The maximum published length of a black marlin stands at 15.3 feet (4.65 m), along with a weight of 1,650 pounds (750 kg). Generally inhabiting tropical and subtropical areas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, black marlin are fished commercially, and like the rest of the marlin family, they are prized game fish.

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