Animal World

Fish, Amphibians, and Reptiles

At what speeds do fishes swim?

The movement, which confuses predators, happens because fish detect pressure changes in the water. The detection system, called the lateral line, is found along each side of the fish’s body. Along the line are clusters of tiny hairs inside cups filled with a jellylike substance. If a fish becomes alarmed and turns sharply, it causes a pressure wave in the water around it. This wave pressure deforms the “jelly” in the lateral line of nearby fish. This moves the hairs that trigger nerves, and a signal is sent to the brain telling the fish to turn.

The maximum swimming speed of a fish is somewhat determined by the shape of its body and tail and by its internal temperature. The cosmopolitan sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus) is considered to be the fastest fish species, at least for short distances, swimming at greater than 60 miles (95 kilometers) per hour. Some American fishermen believe, however, that the bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) is the fastest, but the fastest speed recorded for them so far is 43.4 miles (69.8 kilometers) per hour. Data is extremely difficult to secure because of the practical difficulties in measuring the speeds. The yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) and the wahoe (Acanthocybium solandri) are also fast, timed at 46.35 miles (74.5 kilometers) per hour and 47.88 miles (77 kilometers) per hour during 10- to 20-second sprints. Flying fish swim at more than 40 miles (over 64 kilometers) per hour, dolphins at 37 miles (60 kilometers) per hour, trout at 15 miles (24 kilometers) per hour, and blenny at 5 miles (8 kilometers) per hour. Humans can swim 5.19 miles (8.3 kilometers) per hour.


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