What Counts in the End
I HUNT THE IN THE WORLD
I Hunt the Fastest Animal in the World
The most fascinating and effective stealth fighter in the water is scarcely any larger than a thumbnail: Hippocampus bargibanti pygmy seahorses live among the glowing coral reefs of the Pacific Ocean. After seeing this photo, you might suspect the primary function of this creature’s appearance is to conceal it from natural predators such as small fish. But the true purpose of its coral camouflage is actually to allow it to get as close as possible to unsuspecting prey. Because what it feeds on is fast. Extremely fast. When threatened, copepods can propel themselves away from a dangerous situation, covering a distance equivalent to 300 times their body length within just one second. In comparison: Even when running at full speed, a cheetah manages 30 body lengths. Therefore a high-speed chase isn’t a feasible option for the seahorse. So then how does a creature that moves at just 0.006 miles per hour manage to catch the fastest animal on the planet—which happens to be a very tiny crustacean? Only by using high- resolution high- speed cameras and super slow motion have researchers now discovered that Hippocampus bargibanti stays motionless for hours in the coral— just waiting for a copepod to float by within 2 millimeters of its mouth. Then the seahorse thrusts its head forward and snaps its mouth shut, all in one-thousandth of a second. Too fast for the human eye—and often, for the copepods—to react. The seahorse’s rate of success is 79%—not at all bad for one of the slowest sea creatures in the world.
In order to capture their prey, seahorses dig deep into their bag of tricks— so deep, in fact, that their hunting technique can only be seen in super slow motion…