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The average 1cm long fish larva swims at 20 cm/sec (14 body lengths/sec).  To put these figures into perspective, if Olympic swimmers could swim as well as fish larvae, they could do the 100 m in 3.6 seconds. The world record is about 48 seconds.

Pinstripe Butterflyfish, <i>Chaetodon lunulatus</i>
A larval Pinstripe Butterflyfish in an aquarium. AMS I.44582-015. Image: Colin Wen
© Colin Wen

Reef-fish larvae also have amazing endurance. The average reef-fish can swim in a laboratory tread-mill, without rest or food, for several days covering about 40 km. Scaled to size, this is equivalent to a human swimming about 4000km.

Further reading

  1. View information on Dr Jeff Leis' research on larval fishes.
  2. The superfish challenge: Michael Phelps vs real fish. Science News. ABC website (online, 9 August 2016).