Hidden secrets often lie in plain sight. While impressive organisms are easily noticed, nature is sly and sometimes conceals her largest wonders. Even at the end of the 20th century, one remarkable organism remained unknown. Though small by eye, many species boast superstars as their most colossal members; we invite you to meet them.
Discovering these extraordinary creatures requires a rigorous gaze. It’s not enough to appreciate size alone; you must also notice any relationships and patterns between organisms. For example, observe how some direct opponents experience size disparity when compared within their given species. This insight can yield amazing conclusions about how Mother Nature works her mysterious magic on her many children, large and small alike.
The Corpse Flower is a type of plant.
A rose is famed for its beauty, but imagine one with a scent of rot. Rafflesia Arnoldii, otherwise known as the corpse flower, captivates admirers with petals measuring up to 3 feet wide and weighing 15 pounds.
Its ironic odor attracts pollinating insects and ensures a successful bloom, nature’s way of keeping life in balance. Though most florae offer sweet smells, this rare and remarkable species demands attention with its show-stopping assets and pungent stench.
The Largest Animal on Earth
Beneath the waves, a leviathan looms. The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), the mightiest of all creatures, was born at up to 25 feet and 3 tons – then gaining 200 lbs a day for its first year.
It can reach lengths of 100 feet, weigh more than 200 tons – tongue alone as much as an elephant, heart like a car, and vocal cords capable of 1,000-mile calls. Its blowhole can spew spray 30 feet in the air.
Yet despite its might, the century’s whalers homed in, harvesting 120 barrels of oil off single catches by 1931. Took such a toll that even other species became sought after; until they were finally banned in 1966 by International Whaling Commission.
A wonder undersea behemoth that reminds us we share our planet with marvels at once far bigger and far more delicate than ourselves. And what happens from few is felt by many – demanding stewardship greater than any one creature deserves or needs.
The heaviest organism ever recorded is known
Pando, a clonal colony of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), lives in Utah’s Fishlake National Forest. Its name, Trembling Giant, invokes the 47,000 stems that form its root system and covers an area large enough to create a massive grove of trees. An astounding 6,600 short tons in weight and up to 80,000 years old, making it the heaviest and oldest known organism on Earth, respectively.
These measurements render Pando impressive, but its power lies in the succession of generations united yet individually distinct, a network that links the past with the future. Togetherness has shielded Pando from endangerment through the ideal use of available resources—an ecosystem model for resilience that could last another eighty millennia.
The African elephant is the largest land animal.
The Grandest of land mammals, the African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana), truly lives up to its title. At an awe-inspiring length of 24 feet and a height of 13 feet, they reach masses of up to 11 tons. Their majestic trunks can hold upwards of 400 pounds in weight.
From open savanna to the desert, bush elephants graze on 350 pounds of vegetation each day. Matriarchs treat us with their marvelously long pregnancy periods of 22 months as they bear a single calf. However, destruction and poaching have threatened these incredible animals’ existence today.
The Tree with the Greatest Volume
Giant sequoia reigns supreme for size; General Sherman is the biggest by volume. The ageless wonder in California’s Sequoia National Park stands 274.9 feet tall and is 52,500 cubic feet in volume. Its age is a mere 2,000 years old, but still titanic in comparison with others.
Redwood Hyperion boasts the tallest height at 379.7 feet, but when it comes to sheer mass, none match General Sherman’s mighty grandeur. Fire scars render no obstacle; its restored base is a testament to its towering stature set among verdant sequoia brethren that span centuries of life.
The Largest Invertebrate
Colossal squid, Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, tower over all other creatures without backbones. These leviathans can weigh up to a thousand pounds, span thirty feet, and boast features like a deadly beak and sucker-dotted tentacles. Still, recent research suggests these juggernauts of the deep are really placid, drifting sineaters.
The frozen waters below 6,560 feet tell the host of these invertebrates’ secrets. To date, they’ve been unseen in the wild—hence why the photo of our cephalopod stand-in—so let’s hope one day we have an encounter with this gentle giant of the deep!
The tallest land animal is the giraffe
Elegantly gawky, giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) are the tallest of mammals. Their lanky legs alone can be taller than people! Reaching heights of 19 feet and weighing up to 2,800 lbs – durability without forgoing speed. Well adapted for sprinting over short distances up to 35 mph and trotting comfortably over longer stretches at 10 mph.
Giraffes have adapted to reach foliage higher than other land animals. Through their long necks combined with 20-inch tongues, they graze leaves and fruit from otherwise out-of-reach trees. An impressive feat that was once only reserved for birds.
The Largest Reptile Species
Beware of the saltwater crocodile – master predator. At up to 22 feet long and weighing up to 4,400 pounds, it’s the largest living reptile, renowned for its ferociousness and ferocity. Lurking beneath the water and exploding outward to ambush unsuspecting prey – from water buffalo to monkeys, wild boar to sharks – it demonstrates a vastly bellicose behavior unparalleled by other species.
Death lurks below the placid waters; an unexpected explosion can snatch an animal in mere seconds – dragged beneath until drowned. Nothing is safe in its wake; humans must take special care when venturing into their territory, lest they become its next victim.
The heaviest bird species is the ostrich
Ostriches have remarkable strength and agility, which belies their size. Measuring 9 feet in height and up to 350 pounds, they are the world’s heaviest birds. Yet these huge creatures can sprint up to 43 miles an hour and run great distances at 31 miles an hour.
What stands out most about ostriches is their eyes; with a diameter of 2.2 inches, ostriches hold the world’s record for the largest land animal eyes! This impressive vision translates into acute awareness of the environment–and potential predators.
Important Facts and Overview
The humongous fungus Armillaria ostoyae is the world’s largest living organism by area. It spans over 2,200 acres in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest.
Armillaria ostoyae is a mushroom-forming fungus that lives underground and feeds on the roots of trees, including the vulnerable aspen tree.
Estimated to be between 2,000 and 8,000 years old, the humongous fungus is spread by rhizomorphs, which can grow up to three feet per year.
Another species of Armillaria, Armillaria gallica, forms large colonies of fungi. A Michigan colony covers over 37 acres and is over 1,500 years old.
Due to its shallow root system, the aspen tree is particularly susceptible to Armillaria ostoyae, which can cause root rot and lead to the formation of ghost forests.
Malheur National Forest also houses some of the largest individual aspen trees worldwide, with trunks exceeding six feet in diameter and heights reaching up to 150 feet.
Although the humongous fungus is the largest single organism by area, the blue whale remains the largest organism by mass, with an adult blue whale weighing over 200,000 pounds, compared to the humongous fungus, which weighs less than 10,000 pounds.