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  7. Absolute Units: Top 10 Largest Animals

Absolute Units: Top 10 Largest Animals

Yeah, They Big.


An elephant bathes itself with its trunk and water

 

From the majestic lion to the breath-taking okapi, our planet is home to a host of amazing organisms. Some animals take things to the extreme, being bigger, faster, and stronger than anything else in the world. Today, we're taking a look at some absolute units: the largest animals that have walked (or swam) the earth.

Blue Whale: Largest Mammal Ever

Blue whale barely breashing the ocean surface
Image credit: NOAA Photo Library on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

 

You probably knew this big boi would be on here. The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is currently the largest mammal, living or dead, to have roamed the earth. So, just how big is this animal? Experts have measured specimens up to almost 100 feet in length, and weighing nearly 200 tons! For reference, it would take almost 17 African elephants—the largest living land mammal—to hit the same weight on the scale.

 

Of course, an animal of this size needs to be fueled by an equally as impressive heart. The heart of a blue whale can reach the size of a cow, and can pump a little less than 60 gallons of bleed every time it beats. That's about 3,200 times more than the human heart pumps out per beat.

African Bush Elephant: Largest Living Land Mammal

A mother and small baby African bush elephants walking along a worn path
Image credit: Charles J Sharp on Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

The African bush elephant (Loxodonta Africana) holds the distinction of being the largest extant, or living, land animal. It can grow to be almost 12 tons in weight and stand nearly 13 feet tall at the shoulders. You would have to push two king-sized beds next to each other to get to that same length. Their tusks are incredibly large as well, with some reaching up to 11 feet in length.

 

This variety of elephant also holds another record: the longest gestation period of any mammal. The average pregnancy will last 22 months! (No thanks, my dude.)

Saltwater Crocodile: Largest Living Reptile

A big saltwater crocodile jumps out of a muddy river
Image credit: J. Patrick Fischer on Wikimedia Commons

 

The saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is the largest extant reptile, with males typically reaching 17 feet long, although some may reach almost 20 feet. Weight varies, although some can weigh up to 2,200 pounds!

 

Death by crocodile probably tops the list of most unpleasant ways to go. To kill and tear apart larger meals, the crocodile may engage in what is known as a death roll, where they hold tight onto their prey while spinning rapidly in water. To further tenderize the meat, crocodiles have been known to stuff carcasses underwater for a period of time.

Sauroposeidon: Largest Sauropod

A side by side image of a large sauropod standing next to a human
Image credit: LadyofHats on Wikimedia Commons

 

You can't have a largest animals list without bringing up some dinosaurs. Sauropods were a grouping of dinosaurs that grew to some exceptional sizes. Many suspect that the largest sauropod was the genus Sauroposeidon. How big exactly did these creatures get? No one knows for sure, but some estimate that they could have been 92 feet long! By comparison, the famous T. rex would only be a little over 40 feet in length.

Common Ostrich: Largest Living Bird

A male common ostrich struts across the plains
Image credit: Bernard DUPONT on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

The largest living bird is the common ostrich (Struthio camelus). The African Wildlife Foundation states that they can weigh up to almost 300 pounds and 9 feet tall. Their eggs are pretty hefty too, and can weigh more than 3 pounds.

 

They also have some pretty rad-looking feet. We can't help but imagine that this is what a dinosaur's foot would have looked like.

The large scaly foot of an ostrich
Image credit: Jpbarrass on Wikimedia Commons

Goliath Frog: Largest Amphibian

Skeletal reconstruction of a giant frog
Image credit: smallcurio on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

 

The goliath frog (Conraua goliath) is the world's largest—and most appropriately named—amphibian. This frog can grow to be over a foot in length and weigh a little over 7 pounds. The common European frog, by contrast, will only occasionally grow beyond 3 inches. These amphibians are native to Africa, but are unfortunately endangered.

Whale Shark: Largest Living Fish

A woman points to a whale shark in an aquarium
Photo by Silas Hao on Unsplash

 

The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is the largest fish the world. So, what is this creature exactly? Despite the first part of its name, this fish is not actually a whale, but a shark. The whale part certainly fits though, as some say the largest specimen was over 60 feet long. While these sharks are big, they're not scary: they eat through a filter-feeding system, using organic filters to screen food from the surrounding water. Their favorite source of food? Little plankton.

Basking Shark: Second-Largest Extant Shark

A basking shark just below the ocean's surface opens its mouth wide
Image credit: Greg Skomal / NOAA Fisheries Service. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons

 

Were there other, larger animals that could have made this list? Sure. But just look at this fish! It definitely earns a spot on here. The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus), like the whale shark, is a filter feeder that enjoys plankton. This fish earns the title of second-largest extant shark, weighing in at nearly 11,000 pounds and 26 feet in length. The largest average length for the great white shark is about five feet less than that.

Megalodon: Largest Extinct Shark

A display of the large Megalodon's jaw
Image credit: Serge Illaryonov on Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

 

You can't talk about big sharks without mentioning the megalodon (Carcharocles megalodon). This bad boy had teeth that could be over 7 inches long… which is about the size of a pencil. They died off about 2.6 million years ago, so we fortunately don't have to worry about running into these fearsome predators today (looking at you, The Meg).

Lion's Mane Jellyfish: Largest Jellyfish

A long translucent pink and peach colored jellyfish
Image credit: Ole Kils on Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

Jellyfish probably don't come to mind when you think "big animals." However, with bodies that can grow past 7 feet, and tendrils that can reach well over 100 feet in length, these squishy creatures definitely earned a spot on this list. (After all, remember that the blue whale can't quite reach a hundred feet on average?) Lion's mane jellyfish enjoy small plankton and other jellyfish, among other prey.

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