If you thought the world's fastest animal was a cheetah, you'd be mistaken. If you thought the strongest animal was the elephant, you'd also be wrong. A tiny critter called a copepod is the best jumper and the fastest, strongest multicellular animal known to man. According to an article on Discovery News, the copepod (which measures about 1 millimeter in length) can demonstrate some amazing feats when fleeing its predators.
With an acceleration speed of 500 body-lengths per second, the copepod could make Usain Bolt green with envy as the crustacean zooms away from its underwater attackers. The article reports that, "the tiny leg muscles used to execute such leaps are the most forceful in the world relative to their size."
The article references a Danish study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, in which lead researcher Thomas Kiørboe studied the two different propulsion systems found on the copepod. Kiørboe and his team threatened the copepods by tapping their aquarium, and then photographed their movements to study the different muscular systems at work. Discovery News reports that, "the researchers think this astounding power is made possible by an optimal design of the swimming legs, copepod musculature and overall body shape."
The copepod's efficiency and ability to avoid becoming dinner could be the keys to its abundance — it outnumbers any other multicellular animal on the planet, Kiørboe told Discovery News.
Other scientists are studying the copepod's jumping mechanisms in hope of replicating the skills in robots for possible space exploration, according to the article, though these researchers would be hard-pressed to duplicate the speed and force of such a streamlined creature. Science Daily reports that the copepod is anywhere from 10 to 30 times more powerful than any animal or machine currently in existence.
The trick behind the speed and strength is in those two separate and differently geared "propulsion mechanisms," according to Kiørboe and Science Daily. Copepods have vibrating limbs in addition to swimming or jumping legs. These legs are only used occasionally and, thus, avoid fatigue. Kiørboe and his team from the National Institute of Aquatic Resources at the Technical University of Denmark intend to study the propulsion mechanisms and their nerve transmissions to fully understand the most powerful creature alive.