What’s the biggest living thing on Earth? Some might say the Elephant, though the Giraffe is taller. Others will contest that it’s the Blue Whale. The smarter of you, with a smug, content look on your faces, might even suggest that the biggest living thing on Earth is, of course, the Great Barrier Reef. Well you’re all wrong! The term “biggest living thing” is a bit ambiguous since you can measure by tallest, heaviest, longest or by taking up the most area. None-the-less I think I’ve narrowed down the top 7 contenders. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest living things on Earth, which are utterly monstrous by comparison.
1. African Elephant
Record: Heaviest living land animal.
10.6 metres (35 ft) and 12 tonnes.
The African Bush Elephant (Loxodonta africana), of the order Proboscidea, is the largest living land animal. At birth it is common for an elephant calf to weigh 100 kg (225 pounds). The largest elephant ever recorded was a male, shot in Angola in 1974. He weighed 12,272 kg or 13.5 tons (27,000 lb), with an overall length (trunk to tail) of 10.6 m (35 ft) and a shoulder height of 4.2 m (13.7 ft).
Record: Heaviest living animal.
33 metres (110 ft) and 181 tonnes.
The Blue Whale is currently the largest living animal by length and weight. It has been recorded to be as long as 33 metres (110 ft) and weigh as much as 181 tonnes. Hunting has made the Blue Whale almost extinct and in 2002 there were estimated to be between 5,000 and 12,000 left.
Record: Tallest, Longest and Heaviest animal to have lived.
40-60 metres (131-196 ft) and 122 tonnes.
Amphicoelias was a herbivorous dinosaur which is thought to have grown up to 40-60 metres (131-196 ft) in length, and weigh up to 122 tonnes. As such it would have been both longer and heavier than the blue whale as well as being the biggest dinosaur to have lived. Controversy surrounds this creature however, since only one fossil was ever found, and it was lost shortly after its discovery in the 1870’s. The field notes and drawings still exist. Other large dinosaurs include the estimated 45m long Seismosaurus, the 44m long Bruhathkayosaurus and the incredibly tall 18m high Sauroposeidon who would’ve easily been able to poke its head into the 4th or 5th story window of a building.
4. Bootlace worm
Record: Longest living animal.
55 metres (180 ft).
The bootlace worm currently holds the record as the longest living animal and is found along the coasts of Britain. A specimen washed ashore in the aftermath of a severe storm near St Andrews, Scotland in 1864, and had a length of more than 55 metres (180 ft).
5. Great Barrier Reef
Record: Largest superorganism (an organism made up of micro-organisms).
Covers 2,600 km.
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the world’s largest coral reef system, composed of roughly 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for 2,600 kilometres (1,616 mi) over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres (132,974 sq mi). The CRC Reef Research Centre estimates the age of the present, living reef structure at 6,000 to 8,000 years old. The reefs cannot be considered a living organism, since it is built by billions of tiny organisms known as coral polyps.
6. Armillaria ostoyae
Record: Largest living thing by area.
Covers 8.9 sq. km.
Armillaria ostoyae is a fungus commonly known as a Honey mushroom, and sometimes called Shoestring Rot. It attacks trees and is able to travel great distances under the bark or between trees in the form of black “shoestrings”.
One specimen, discovered in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon, U.S. was found to be the largest fungal colony in the world, spanning 8.9 km² (2200 acres) of area. This organism is estimated to be 2400 years old.
While an accurate estimate has not been made, the total mass of the colony may be as much as 605 tons. If this colony is considered a single organism, then it is the largest known organism in the world by area.
7. Pando, The Aspen Colony
Record: Heaviest & Oldest living organism.
Covers 4.3 sq km and weighs approx 6,000 tonnes.
The Aspen is a part of the willow family and may not seem very impressive at only 15-25 metres tall, but when you consider that all species of Aspens grow in large colonies derived from a single seedling they start to get a whole lot more interesting. They spread by means of root suckers and new stems (the Aspen itself) grows around 40 metres from the first, or parent tree. This enables the Aspen colony to survive forest fires, since the root system is buried underground below the heat source.
While each tree lives around 40 to 150 years above ground, the root system of the colony sends up new stems as older ones die out, as such the Aspen colony is extremely long lived, often thousands of years. One colony in Utah, nicknamed Pando the Trembling Giant, is claimed to be 80,000 years old. This amazing fact makes it the oldest known living organism.
Pando was discovered in 1992 and is estimated to be 6,000 tonnes which would also make it the heaviest known living organism. Pando encompasses 43 hectares (that’s 107 acres or 430,000 square metres) and has roughly 47,000 stems. Pando is latin for “I spread”.