National Geographic : 2009 Sep
2# SCIENCE Who's Number Two? Most folks know the cheetah's top speed of 70 mph makes it the fastest land animal. But what's the runner-up? Turns out it's the pronghorn. The deerlike mammal cruises at 35 mph and can hit 50. Its velocity is thought to have been a defense against cheetahs that lived in North America eons ago. Often overlooked, number twos can show how close the race is---or how far ahead a number one really is. ---Melody Kramer PHOTOS CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT : RICHARD DU TOIT, MINDEN PICTURES/NG STOCK; MARK THIESSEN, NG PHOTOGRAPHER; CLAUS MEYER, MINDEN PICTURES/NG STOCK; MICHAEL POLIZA, NG STOCK. RUBY COURTESY PAMPILLONIA JEWELERS Second longest fish Basking shark (#1: Whale shark) It can reach 30 feet; a whale shark can grow to 40 to 60 feet. Second shortest fish Stout infantfish (#1: Adult male spiny-headed devilfish, .24 inch) A mature stout infantfish is .27 inch. But even runners-up can prevail. Till other wee fry are weighed, the infantfish is the lightest fish: 500,000 to a pound. Second closest living human relative Gorilla (#1: Chimpanzee) Humans and chimps split from a common ancestor about seven million years ago. Gorillas and humans split some three million years before that. Second longest river Amazon (#1: Nile) Or is it the other way round? The debate goes on. Traditional stats: Nile, 4,241 miles; Amazon, 4,000. Second highest point on Earth K2 (#1: Everest, 29,035 feet) Dubbed Savage Mountain, the 28,251-foot K2 is one of the dead- liest for climbers, with 77 fatalities. Second deepest spot on Earth Tonga Trench (#1: Mariana Trench) In the duel of Pacific depressions, 35,837-foot Tonga is 400 feet shal- lower. It is the only trench holding a generator jettisoned by Apollo 13. Second smallest planet Mars (#1: Mercury) The red planet was bumped from #3 to #2 after astronomers stripped Pluto, previously the solar system runt, of planetary status. Second tallest animal African elephant (#1: Giraffe) The heaviest land mammal is the second tallest. Males grow to about 12 feet, females hit 9 feet. But at 15 to 19 feet tall, a grown giraffe could eat beans off an elephant's head. Second most popular tourist destination Spain, 59.2 million visitors in 2007 (#1: France, 81.9 million) Second tallest structure KVLY TV mast, North Dakota (#1: Burj Dubai building, 2,320 feet now; 2,600 is the goal) The 2,063-foot-tall transmitting tower was completed in 1963. The FCC now suggests topping towers off at 2,000 feet for aircraft safety. Second largest metropolitan area New York City-Newark, 19.04 million (#1: Tokyo, 36 million) Look out, Big Apple. By 2025, you'll probably be trailing Mumbai, Delhi, São Paolo, Dhaka, and Mexico City. Second least populous state Tuvalu, 12,177 citizens (#1: Vatican City, 824) The Pacific island nation is just a sixth the size of Washington, D.C. Second most widely spoken language as a first language Hindi, 366 million (#1: Mandarin Chinese, 873 million) Second hardest gemstone Ruby/sapphire (#1: Diamond) Rubies and sapphires are variations of the mineral corundum, which is also used in sandpaper.