The Top 10 Fastest Sea Animals

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: June 21, 2021

What are the 10 fastest sea animals? As anyone who’s gone swimming knows, it’s harder to move in water than it is in air. This is because water is denser than air, which means there are more molecules of water in a given space than there would be molecules of air in the same space and under the same pressure.

When an object tries to move through these molecules, friction occurs and slows the movement down. Not only this, saltwater, which is found in the oceans, is denser than freshwater, so it’s even harder to travel through. So, sea animals that need to travel fairly quickly tend to have bodies that are streamlined, or shaped like cylinders or torpedoes. This shape reduces the amount of friction caused by moving through saltwater and tends to make these animals fast. Here are 10 of the fastest sea animals:

#10 Fastest Sea Animal: Killer Whale – 32 mph

Fastest Sea Animal: Killer Whale
The Orca are the largest of the dolphins and are very intelligent animals.

Also called the orca, this beautiful marine mammal with its sleek black and white livery has been clocked at 32 miles per hour when leaping out of the water. An orca can grow to 31 feet long, and males are bigger and more robust than females. Males can also be told in the water because their dorsal fin is tall and erect, and the fins of the females gently curve. The black and white bodily coloration is also unmistakable.

The killer whale’s head is wide and round, and it has a large mouth with large, pointed teeth. It has paddle-shaped flippers that are large for the rest of its body. In the wild, the killer whale prefers cooler water just off the coast and can also move into rivers. It is found from the Arctic Ocean to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Other populations are found in the Pacific Ocean around the equator.

Killer whales can be seen at the Miami Seaquarium, the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium and Seaworld Orlando.

#9 Fastest Sea Animal: Flying Fish – 35 mph

Fastest Sea Animal: Flying Fish
Flying fish actually do not have the ability to fly like birds, but they leap into the air and glide for short distances.

Flying fish don’t actually fly, but they do leap out of the water while attaining speeds as fast as 35 miles per hour. Sometimes they leap so high that they land on boat decks. There are about 23 species of flying fish.

They have a torpedo-shaped body that allows them to move fast, pectoral fins on their sides and pelvic fins, and dorsal and anal fins far back on the body. The pectoral fins have become enormous and allow the fish to glide just above the surface of the water.

They’re found in the Atlantic from Maine down to the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean and south to Argentina. They can also be found in the Pacific from southern California down to Peru. Flying fish are popular prey for dolphins and billfishes such as marlins.

#8 Fastest Sea Animal: Atlantic Bluefin Tuna – 43 mph

Fastest Sea Animal: Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
The Atlantic bluefin tuna is one of the largest, fastest, and most gorgeously colored of all the world’s fishes.

The bluefin tuna is an unusual fish, for it is warm-blooded. All tuna species are warm-blooded but the bluefin’s warm-bloodedness is exceptionally efficient. This is certainly one of the reasons why the fish is as fast as it is. The bluefin has been clocked at 43 miles per hour.

An adult bluefin can be between 6.6 and 8.2 feet long and weigh between 496 to 551 pounds, though the longest one was 12 feet long and weighed close to 1500 pounds. It is a powerful fish, can put up a fight for days, and can live to be 50 years old. A female bluefin tuna can produce 30 million eggs at a time. Still, this fecundity hasn’t made up for the fact that the bluefin has been overfished and is now endangered globally.

#7 Fastest Sea Animal: Mako Shark – 40 mph

Fastest Sea Animal: Mako Shark
A huge Mako Shark swimming underwater offshore. The Mako Shark is not only the fastest shark in the water but one of the fastest creatures on earth

The mako shark is another fast, powerful, warm-blooded fish that makes good eating and is endangered. There are two species of this shark, which is related to the great white but is a bit smaller, being 8.2 to about 15 feet long and weighing as much as 1400 pounds. Both mako shark species are torpedo-shaped, metallic blue on top and white on the bottom. The longfin gets its name because it has longer pectoral fins than the shortfin and has much larger eyes. Both have mouths full of sharp, haphazard-looking teeth.

The shortfin mako shark can be found around the world in seas that are both temperate or tropical, while the longfin mako prefers the warmer waters in the Gulf Stream. Both can be found offshore, swimming at the surface or to depths of around 490 feet. It can swim as fast as 40 miles per hour.

#6 Fastest Sea Animal: Bonito – 40 mph

Fastest Sea Animal: Bonito
Japanese Katsuo fish (bonito, skipjack tuna). They have a very streamlined body that is similar to that of a tuna.

The bonito is a small fish even though it to can reach speeds of 40 miles per hour. It is a member of the mackerel family, and there’s an Atlantic and Pacific species. The Atlantic bonito is three feet long, and its body, which is silver at the bottom and blue at the top, is long and compressed. It is found near the surface of temperate and tropical seas and close to the shore. It’s a migratory fish that ranges from Nova Scotia to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico and is sometimes found as far south as Argentina. The Pacific bonito has the same build but has stripes on its back and is found from Chile north to the Gulf of Alaska.

#5 Fastest Sea Animal: Pilot Whale – 47 mph

Fastest Sea Animal: Pilot Whale
Pilot whales are in fact one of the largest members of the dolphin family. They were named pilot whales because it was thought that each pod followed a ‘pilot’ in the group.

Like the killer whale, the pilot whale is actually a large dolphin and can attain speeds of 47 miles per hour. Also called the blackfish, this animal is highly intelligent as well as fast. It is very social and is famous for inexplicably stranding itself on beaches. Its conservation status is least concern, but it is too often caught in nets meant for commercial fishes.

It is a dark brown, dark gray, or black animal that can have a gray patch right behind its small dorsal fin. It’s also known for its melon, or its large, bulbous head. There are two species, the long-finned and the short-finned. The long-finned pilot whale can grow to about 21 feet long, with males about three feet longer than females. Male short-finned pilot whales grow to about 24 feet long and weigh over 3.5 tons. This makes their speed all the more impressive.

#4 Fastest Sea Animal: Yellowfin Tuna – 50 mph

Fastest Sea Animal: Yellowfin Tuna
Yellowfin tuna out in the open ocean in crystal clear blue water. The yellowfin tuna is one of the open ocean’s fastest, strongest predators and an important fishery species everywhere that it lives.

Like the bluefin tuna, the yellowfin tuna is warm-blooded, and though its circulatory system isn’t as efficient as the bluefin’s, it appears that it can swim even faster at 50 miles per hour. It is found in warm ocean waters around the world and can grow to over 400 pounds. Its looks set it apart as well as its speed. It has very long, curved second anal and dorsal fins, which are yellow and give the fish its name. It also has yellow finlets down the stem of its tail or caudal peduncle. It is dark, shiny blue on top and silver on the belly, and the belly is striped.

This powerful fish is not just a fast swimmer, but a long-distance swimmer. It’s not unheard of for a yellowfin to swim straight across the ocean. It forms schools and often travels with other fish as well as porpoises and dolphins. Its flesh is delicious, and it puts up a good fight for sport fishermen. Unfortunately, this and commercial overfishing has made the yellowfin near threatened.

#3 Fastest Sea Animal: Swordfish – 60 mph

Fastest Sea Animal: Swordfish
Swordfish are a popular sport fish of the billfish category, though elusive. They are elongated, round-bodied, and lose all teeth and scales by adulthood.

The very fastest fish in the oceans are the billfish, and this includes the swordfish, named for its long, flattened beak, or sword. Like its relatives, the swordfish is torpedo-shaped and its long and compressed body allows it to swim through the water at up to 60 miles per hour.

The swordfish can grow to 15 feet long and weigh 1182 pounds. Its first dorsal fin is tall and curved and the second is much smaller and very near its tail. It’s found near the shore and in open seas and can dive to as deep as 198 feet. Its found in the Atlantic from Newfoundland down to Argentina and in the Pacific from Oregon down to Chile.

#2 Fastest Sea Animal: Sailfish – 68 mph

Fastest Sea Animal: Sailfish
Often working together in groups of two or more, swift sailfish thrash at and disrupt schools of smaller fish such as sardines and anchovies, thus allowing each sailfish to more easily snag its meals.

Another billfish, the sailfish, can reach speeds of 68 miles per hour as it leaps out of the water or plunges into a school of prey fish. This fish is smaller than the swordfish at around 11 feet in length, and it usually weighs only about 182 pounds. Like the swordfish, it has a compressed, long, tapering body. Its top is dark blue while its belly is silvery, and grown fish have rows of golden spots on their sides.

Its spectacular dorsal fin gives the fish its name, for it stretches nearly the length of the animal’s back. Not only this, it can be folded into a groove on the back to make the fish more hydrodynamic and is only put up when the animal is hunting. The sailfish uses its long bill to slash at its prey, and it’s either “left-billed” or “right-billed.”

#1 Fastest Sea Animal: Black Marlin – 82 mph

Fastest Sea Animal: Black Marlin
Black marlin jumping close to shore. It is the fastest fish in the world and can swim faster than the incredibly fast cheetah can run.

Though the sailfish is thought to be the fastest animal in the ocean, the black marlin may best it, and there is a story of one fish reaching 82 miles per hour. This fish is found in the warmer waters of the Pacific and the Indian Ocean and is a bit bigger than the sailfish at about 15 feet long. It is much heavier, with a weight of 1650 pounds.

In contrast to the sailfish, the black marlin’s bill is relatively short, and its dorsal fin is low and rounder. Its pectoral fins are so rigid that they can’t be pressed against the fish’s sides to lower the amount of drag, which makes its speed that much more impressive.