Ranking the 10 Fastest Sea Animals in the Ocean

Fastest sea animals in the ocean

The ocean is filled with amazing creatures, and some of them are incredibly fast. Imagine this: water is much thicker than air, so moving quickly through it is an incredibly tough job. 

Even though this is true, many sea animals swim through water at incredible speeds. In fact, some are comparable to how fast a cheetah runs across land. It makes you wonder, how do they do this?

This article will explore the top 10 fastest animals in the ocean. From the quick Bonito to the super-fast Black Marlin, we’ll see how these creatures are adapted to zoom through the water. Let’s begin!

Quick Overview 

RankSea AnimalSpeed
1Black Marlin82 mph (132 km/h)
2Sailfish68 mph (109 km/h)
3Swordfish62 mph (99 km/h)
4Dolphinfish (Mahi Mahi)58 mph (93 km/h)
5Yellowfin Tuna50 mph (81 km/h)
6Wahoo48 mph (77 km/h)
7Pilot Whale47 mph (76 km/h)
8Atlantic Bluefin Tuna44 mph (71 km/h)
9Blue Shark43 mph (69 km/h)
10Bonito40 mph (64 km/h)

Top 10 Fastest Sea Animals

Here’s a fun tidbit: swimming a certain distance uses four times more energy than running the same distance (at least for humans). That’s because water is thicker than air and creates more resistance.

So, when sea animals swim, it’s like us walking through a packed crowd — it’s tough since they’re pushing against the heavy water around them. How do they manage that, and which are the fastest swimmers? Let’s find out.

10. Bonito (40 mph)

Bonito navigating through underwater currents
Maximum Speed:40 mph (64 km/h)
Size:18–30 inches
Habitat:Warm oceanic waters, often near the surface
Lifespan:Up to 8 years
Fun Fact:“Bonito” is a term used to describe several species of ray-finned predatory fish — all of them are incredibly fast swimmers.

Ranking 10th among the fastest sea animals, the Bonito is a medium-sized fish that can reach speeds of up to 40 mph. These fish thrive in warm waters and grow to a size of between 18 and 30 inches.

They have a slim and muscular body, perfectly shaped for fast swimming. Bonito also have powerful tail fins that act like a natural motor, helping them glide effortlessly through the water. 

Their speed is not just for hunting; it’s also crucial for escaping danger and their long migrations across the sea. Additionally, these fish are valuable both for commercial fishing and as a catch for sport fishermen. 

Interestingly, the term “Bonito” describes several species of medium-sized, ray-finned predatory fish. Some notable examples are Striped Bonito, Atlantic Bonito, and Pacific Bonito.

9. Blue Shark (43 mph)

Blue Shark cruising fast in deep blue sea
Maximum Speed:43 mph (69 km/h)
Size:72–144 inches
Habitat:Deep waters of temperate and tropical oceans
Lifespan:Up to 20 years
Fun Fact:Blue Sharks are known for their distinct blue color and fast swimming speeds; they also “ride” waves when feeding.

The Blue Shark, holding the ninth spot on our list, impresses with its 43 mph pace. These sharks, ranging in size from 72 to 144 inches, are found mainly in deep, warm, and cool areas. 

Their long bodies and big side fins are perfect for fast swimming. These features allow them to chase food or travel far. 

Regarding physical appearance, these sharks stand out with their bright blue color, which is also where they got their name.

What’s really special about these creatures is how they hunt food. Recent studies discovered that blue sharks rely on large, spinning currents, known as eddies, to quickly reach the ocean’s twilight zone.

By riding these currents, blue sharks can conserve energy while traveling to deeper parts of the ocean, where food might be more abundant. 

This behavior shows their smart use of ocean dynamics to make hunting more efficient rather than relying only on their speed.

8. Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (44 mph)

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna gliding swiftly through the ocean
Maximum Speed:44 mph (71 km/h)
Size:60–150 inches
Habitat:Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea
Lifespan:Up to 35 years
Fun Fact:The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna disappeared from the Nordic Waters for over 50 years and is now making a comeback.

The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is an incredible fish that can swim up to 44 mph. It has a body shaped like a torpedo and strong muscles suited for fast swimming. 

These fish travel long distances, swimming through the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. They are also big, growing up to 60 to 150 inches long. 

The largest Atlantic Bluefin Tuna I’ve seen in person measured an impressive 832 pounds. It was caught off Florida’s Panhandle coast, a few hours from my childhood town in Boca Raton.

I remember that it took six men to lift the tuna from the water using a rope and a pulley. It was definitely one of the largest tuna I came across. 

Aside from their size and speed, another amazing thing about these fast sea animals is that they can keep their body warm in different water temperatures. 

On top of that, their color is striking, too, sporting a shiny blue back and a white belly.

Fun Fact: Did you know that after disappearing for over 50 years, the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna has made a spectacular comeback to Nordic waters? 

This return is a chance for fish enthusiasts to learn more about their migration and behavior in a region they last visited in decades.

7. Pilot Whale (47 mph)

Pilot Whale moving fast in the ocean depths
Maximum Speed:47 mph (76 km/h)
Size:144–240 inches
Habitat:Deep waters of most oceans
Lifespan:35 to 60 years
Fun Fact:Despite their speed, Pilot Whales often strand themselves in large groups for unknown reasons. The origin of their name is also unknown.

The Pilot Whale, known for swimming as fast as 47 mph, is next in line in our list of fast sea animals. These animals, which can be as long as 240 inches, are actually more similar to large dolphins than to true whales.

Their impressive speed is thanks to their streamlined bodies and powerful flukes, which enable swift and agile movements.

Pilot Whales are social creatures, often found in large pods. They use their speed for efficient hunting and evading predators. 

The term “pilot whale” likely comes from the idea that these whales have a leader, or “pilot,” in their groups. 

People thought this because they saw pilot whales swimming together in pods, usually following one or a few whales that seemed to lead the way. However, this idea is more folklore rather than a proven scientific fact.

Fun Fact: On July 18, 2023, 97 pilot whales were stranded near Albany, Western Australia. The exact cause of this is unknown and is currently being investigated. Some say it’s acoustic trauma, while other scientists believe a disease may cause it.

6. Wahoo (48 mph)

Wahoo darting fast in clear blue waters
Maximum Speed:48 mph (77 km/h)
Size:40–65 inches
Habitat:Tropical and subtropical seas worldwide
Lifespan:Up to 6 years
Fun Fact:Unlike other fast-swimming animals, Wahoo frequents shallow waters, usually no deeper than 650 feet.

The Wahoo ranks sixth among our list of ocean speedsters. These fish have the ability to swim at 48 mph thanks to their elongated bodies and streamlined shape.

Found in tropical and subtropical seas worldwide, Wahoos are known for their blue-green backs and silvery sides. Their agility and speed make them a favorite among sport fishermen. 

Intriguingly, satellite tagging studies have shown that Wahoos spend most of their time in shallow waters. This behavior is quite special and different.

Unlike other fast-swimming animals, Wahoos don’t usually go deep to find food or escape danger. This shows they have found a special way to live suited to their needs and abilities.

5. Yellowfin Tuna (50 mph)

Yellowfin Tuna accelerating through the ocean
Maximum Speed:50 mph (81 km/h)
Size:40–80 inches
Habitat:Warm oceanic waters
Lifespan:Up to 7 years
Fun Fact:Yellowfin Tuna have unique muscle fibers that may be responsible for their speed.

The Yellowfin Tuna, zipping through the water at 50 mph, snags the title of fifth fastest sea creature. Its body is shaped like a torpedo, sleek and streamlined, which helps it cut through water quickly. 

There are many theories as to how Yellowfin Tuna is so fast, but one study I came across credits their muscle structure for their speed.

Unlike other fish with only white, anaerobic fibers, Yellowfin Tuna have red, anaerobic fibers deep in their muscular structure. This design is said to boost their swimming power.

However, the presence of red aerobic fibers is not unique to them. In fact, I have come across other fish that also have these muscular fibers.

Under a microscope, I would describe these red aerobic fibers as long, striated muscle fibers with a reddish tint. This is due to the high content of myoglobin, an oxygen-storing protein.

Going back to the Yellowfin Tuna, another cool thing about them is how they hang out with other sea animals, like dolphins. This shows they like being part of a group, which makes them even more fascinating.

4. Dolphinfish (Mahi Mahi) (58 mph)

Dolphinfish darting quickly through the blue ocean
Maximum Speed:58 mph (93 km/h)
Size:30–63 inches
Habitat:Offshore, warm waters
Lifespan:Up to 7 years
Fun Fact:Aside from being fast swimmers, Dolphinfish grow incredibly fast.

The Dolphinfish, also called Mahi Mahi, is a fast sea animal that can swim as fast as 58 mph. Its streamlined body shape helps it move quickly through the water. 

Other than their speed, these fish are also known for their striking colors, ranging from golden yellow to bright blue and green. In terms of size, they can grow quite large, up to 63 inches long

One interesting thing about Dolphinfish is that they grow really quickly. On average, they can grow up to 2.7 inches per week and reach their adult size in about a year.

Furthermore, they reach their sexual maturity as early as five months of age. This exceptional growth rate is among the highest for bony fishes.

Fun Fact: In 2014, a captive Mahi Mahi was recorded to have grown 50 pounds in just nine months. This is an incredibly fast growth rate for any sea animal.

3. Swordfish (62 mph)

Swordfish cutting through water at high speed
Maximum Speed:62 mph (99 km/h)
Size:48–118 inches
Habitat:Open oceans, both tropical and temperate
Lifespan:Up to 9 years
Fun Fact:Swordfish use a special gland near their bill to lubricate their heads when swimming fast.

The Swordfish, known for reaching speeds as high as 62 mph, stands out as one of the fastest sea animals. A big reason for its remarkable speed is its body shape and long bill.

However, aside from their streamlined figure, Swordfish also have a special gland that releases oil. This creates a slick coating on their skin, which reduces water drag.

Swordfish also have small, tooth-like features called denticles. These structures, combined with the oil, create a water-repelling effect.

This unique combination enables Swordfish to reach speeds that rival the swiftness of a cheetah on land.

Size-wise, Swordfish are big, growing up to 118 inches. Their large size and speed make them incredibly efficient and powerful swimmers in the sea.

2. Sailfish (68 mph)

Sailfish swimming rapidly
Maximum Speed:68 mph (109 km/h)
Size:72–132 inches
Habitat:Open and temperate oceans
Lifespan:Up to 4 years
Fun Fact:Although Sailfish are known for hunting together in groups, they are usually solitary.

The Sailfish is known to many as the ocean’s fastest fish, but it is actually just the second fastest. Boasting a speed of around 68 mph, these creatures sport a perfectly shaped body and a long, sword-like bill. 

When hunting for prey, Sailfish usually move between the ocean’s surface and deeper, colder layers. They are also fond of hunting in groups.

However, recent studies have shown something new: Sailfish also hunt alone. In a 2023 study, researchers were able to film a Sailfish chasing a small tuna from deep underwater to the surface.

The research also mentioned that a Sailfish needs to consume roughly half a tuna per day to meet its energy needs. This is quite impressive, considering the amount of energy it needs to hunt and swim fast.

Watch this video to learn more about this study on Sailfish:

Innovative Research on Sailfish | NSU Guy Harvey Research Institute

Fun Fact: There is a study challenging claims about the high-speed swimming abilities of fish. It examines the muscle contraction times in Sailfish, revealing that they swim much slower than previously believed. Debates on this topic are still ongoing.

1. Black Marlin (82 mph)

Black Marlin leaping at high speed above sea surface
Maximum Speed:82 mph (132 km/h)
Size:120–180 inches
Habitat:Tropical and subtropical regions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans
Lifespan:Up to 10 years
Fun Fact:Black Marlins are capable of making spectacular leaps out of the water.

The Black Marlin, known as the fastest fish in the ocean, can reach speeds of up to 82 mph. BBC News shared a video supporting this claim. It shows just how fast the fishing reel unwinds when a Black Marlin is caught.

The video shows the fishing line unwinding at an estimated 120 feet per second, which is around 82 mph. Some people question if this is a precise way to measure speed, but others believe it’s pretty convincing.

Apart from their speed, though, Black Marlins are also known for their impressive jumps out of the water. These leaps show how strong they are and help them get rid of parasites and avoid predators.

Black Marlins are also popular targets in sport fishing because of their large size and the challenge they offer to anglers. However, fishing for them is carefully regulated in many places.

Watch this video to get a sense of how fast the Black Marlin is:

Black Marlin: The Fastest Fish on the Planet | Ultimate Killers | BBC Earth

Frequently Asked Questions

Group of fast sea animals

What Is the Fastest Fish in the World?

The Black Marlin is known as the fastest fish in the world, capable of reaching speeds up to 82 mph (132 km/h). However, other sources point to the Sailfish as the fastest, clocking in at an impressive 68 mph (109 km/h).

Is a Black Marlin Faster Than a Cheetah?

Yes, in water. A Black Marlin can swim up to 82 mph, while a cheetah, the fastest land animal, can run up to 75 mph. However, this comparison is between different mediums (water vs. land).

What Factors Contribute to the Speed of Sea Animals?

The speed of sea animals depends on a few things, like their body shape, muscular strength, the size and shape of their fins, and sometimes special features (such as oil glands in the case of the Sailfish). 

So, what do you think about these amazing sea creatures? Did they impress you? Let us know your thoughts and ideas about these fast sea animals by leaving a comment below!

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