Nature’s top 5 swimmers

On 13 August 2016, Singapore received her first Olympic gold medal when Joseph Schooling’s winning time of 50.39 seconds rewrote the Olympic record for men’s 100m butterfly.

But if the swimming Olympics were to be held in the marine world, Schooling’s speed (which works out to about 7.1km/h) pales in comparison to the top 5 medal contenders, namely the Wahoo, Blue Marlin, Swordfish, Sailfish and Black Marlin.

#5 Wahoo – top speed 78km/h

Also called Ono in Hawaii and Peto in the Caribbean, the Wahoo has a slim, streamlined body with sharp-toothed, beak-like jaws. It has long been a preferred game fish prized for its speed and delicious flesh which is said to taste similar to mackerel but less pronounced.

Many Wahoos have parasitic worms (Hirudinella ventricosa) living in their stomachs which do not appear to harm the fish. Here’s what the parasites look like:

#4 Blue Marlin – top speed 97km/h

Photograph by WaterFrame/Alamy. Source: National Geographic

The Blue Marlin is one of the largest and fastest fish in the ocean, spending most of its life far out at sea. Females are significantly larger than males, and can reach 4.2m in length and weigh more than 900kg.

They are also among the most recognisable of all fish – with a cobalt-blue top, silvery-white underside, pronounced dorsal fin and a long, lethal, spear-shaped upper jaw which they use to slash through dense schools of fish, returning to eat their stunned and wounded victims.

Blue Marlins are known for putting up an intense fight when hooked, making them the holy grail for sport fishers. Their meat is also considered a delicacy in Japan where it is served raw as sashimi.

#3 Swordfish – top speed 100km/h

Also known as Broadbill in some countries, Swordfish are large predatory fish characterised by their long, flat bill. They are also a popular game fish, with the largest Swordfish caught back on 7 May 1953 off the coast of Iquique, Chile. It measured 4.5m long and weighed 536kg.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, about 50% of the Swordfish’s upper jaws are composed of an oil-producing gland that allows their skin to secrete oil when water moved past their head, hence reducing drag on their skin by more than 20%.

#2 Sailfish – top speed 110km/h

Found in the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific oceans, Sailfish have a long, sharp bill which they use for hunting sardines, mackerel and squid. Their name comes from their distinctive sail-like dorsal fin which is usually kept folded down into the side when swimming to reduce drag. It is only raised when they feel threatened, making them appear much larger than they really are.

#1 Black Marlin – top speed 128km/h

Darting like a torpedo through the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the Indo-Pacific oceans, Black Marlins are a highly prized game fish known for its power, size, and persistence. They are known to weigh as much as 750kg, and reach lengths of 4.5m. Unlike other Marlins, the Black Marlins have non-retractable pectoral fins (the pair of fins located on both sides of the fish directly behind its head). Here’s the world’s fastest fish caught on camera:

Learn more about the largest, fastest and other amazing marine species at National Geographic’s first ever Ocean Record Breakers exhibition. This is part of our National Geographic’s Ocean Wonders programme, now on till 20 May 2018.

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