Many people find it difficult to capture life in all its diversity: not just the birds, reptiles and mammals that everyone knows and loves, but also viruses, bacteria, protozoa, invertebrates, trees and fungi. In the photos below, you'll embark on a guided tour of Earth's largest organisms, ranging from a giant (by microscopic standards) virus to a gigantic (by anyone's standards) clonal colony of trees, complete with all your favorite whales, elephants and anacondas in between.
Largest virus: the pitovirus (1.5 microns long)
Whether viruses are actually living organisms can be debated (some biologists say they are, others aren't so sure), but there's no doubt that the pitovirus is a veritable behemoth, 50% larger than the previous record holder, Pandoravirus. , and (at 1.5 millionths of a meter) slightly larger than the smallest identifiedeukaryotic cellYou would think that a pathogen as large as the pitovirus would have a habit of infecting elephants, hippos, or even humans, but don't worry: it actually feeds on amoebas that are slightly larger than itself.
The largest bacterium - Thiomargarite (0.5 millimeters wide)
It looks like a mixed drink, but thiomargarita is Greek for "pearl of sulfur," a reference to the grains of sulfur incorporated into the cytoplasm of this bacterium (which give it a shiny appearance) and the fact that plump thiomargarita tends to curl up. connect into long strings like pearls while splitting. Completely harmless to humans and other animals, it's a "lithotroph", meaning it lives off of inert chemicals on the sea floor, the half-millimeter-tall thiodaisy may be the only bacteria in the world visible to the naked eye.
Largest Amoeba - The Giant Amoeba (3 millimeters long)
The genus name associated with the giant amoeba is second to none: "chaos," presumably in reference to this single-celled organism's constant waves, as well as the fact that it harbors literally hundreds of individual nuclei in its cytoplasm. As long as he lags far behindmonstrous amoebasthat populate comic books and science fiction films, the giant amoeba, up to 3 millimeters long, in addition to being visible to the naked eye, is also capable of swallowing and digesting (slowly) smaller multicellular organisms, in addition to its usual bacterial diet and protists.
Largest Insect - Goliath Bug (3-4 oz.)
The aptly namedgiant beetle, genus name Goliathus, is never seen in the wild outside the rainforests of Africa, which is good since this insect weighs as much as an adult gerbil. However, the goliath beetle's title of "the biggest beetle in the world" comes with a huge asterisk: this insect is twice the size of a larva than an adult. If you're feeling adventurous, you can create your own Goliath bug; Experts advise (seriously) that a wet or dry packaged dog or cat food diet works well.
Biggest Spider - The Goliath Birdeater (5oz)
A distant relative of the goliath beetle, the South American bird eater is the heaviest in the world.Spinnentier, weighing about a third of a pound fully grown. Remarkably, female Goliaths take at least three years to reach adulthood and have a lifespan of up to 25 years in the wild, about the same as the average domestic cat. (Males are less fortunate; although they aren't eaten by females after mating like other spider species, they do have a shorter lifespan of just three to six years.)
Biggest Worm: The Giant African Earthworm (2-3 pounds)
If you hate earthworms, you might be dismayed to discover that there are not one, but more than half a dozen species of giant earthworm, the largest of which is the giant African earthworm.The microchaetes were ripped, which is up to 6 feet long from head to tail and weighs as much as a medium-sized snake. As large as they are, giant worms are just as harmless as their little cousins; They like to bury themselves deep in the mud, stay away from humans (and other animals), and quietly eat rotten leaves and other decaying organic matter.
Largest amphibian: Goliath Frog (5 pounds)
"Goliath" is a popular name for large animals; Not only do we have the Goliath beetle and the Goliath bird eater, we also have the West Central African Goliath frog. Large as it is, the goliath frog is strictly vegetarian and feeds only on an obscure aquatic plant,Dicraeia warming up, which only grows on the banks of rapids and waterfalls. Remarkably, at an average of 2.5 kilograms, the Goliath frog is not much smaller than the largest frog that ever lived, the 4.5 kilogram "devil's frog".beelzebufoLate Cretaceous Madagascar.
Largest arthropod: Japanese spider crab (25 pounds)
Looking a bit like a face hugger from the Alien movies, the Japanese spider crab is really huge and has incredibly long legs.arthropod. This invertebrate's legs can reach lengths of over 6 feet, dwarfing its foot-long torso, and its orange and white mottled exoskeleton helps camouflage it from larger marine predators that would love to turn it into a nice underwater salad. . Like many strange creatures, the Japanese spider crab is a prized delicacy in Japan, but has recently disappeared from sushi restaurant menus due to pressure from conservationists.
Largest flowering plant - Rafflesia (25 lbs)
Not something you want to plant in your backyard garden, Rafflesia is known as the "corpse flower": Its huge, meter-wide blooms smell like rotting meat and attract bugs that help spread its pollen. And that's not the scariest thing about Rafflesia: this flower lacks stems, leaves and even roots, growing by parasitizing the tendrils of another plant genus, Tetrastigma. Fortunately for the rest of us, rafflesia is restricted to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines; You definitely won't find it in the New Jersey desert.
Largest sponge: The Giant Barrel Sponge (6 feet tall)
The giant barrel sponge is not just the largest sponge in existence today; it is also one of the most durableinvertebrateson Earth, some individuals last up to 1,000 years. like other spongesXestospongia mutait's a filter feeder that pumps seawater around the sides, extracting the tasty microorganisms and ejecting debris from its roomy top. The red color of this giant sponge comes from symbiotic cyanobacteria; Like the corals with which it shares its reef habitat, it can be periodically "bleached" by ecological disturbance.
The largest jellyfish: the lion's mane (30 meters long)
With its six-foot-wide bell (in the largest individuals) and tentacles that can exceed 30 meters, the lion's mane jellyfish is something special.Wholike the blue whale to other whales. However, considering its size, the lion's mane jellyfish is not overly poisonous (a healthy person can easily survive a sting), and it also performs an important ecological function, gathering various fish and crustaceans under its huge bell. Fittingly, the lion's mane jellyfish is a favorite food source for another big animal on this list, the pelt.
Largest flying bird: Kori Bustard (40 pounds)
Weighing in at up to 40 pounds for the biggest males, the kori bustard is at the limit of aerodynamics: this isn't the most graceful bird in the world when it takes off, and it can't flap its wings for more than a few minutes. In fact, although the Kori bustard briefly flees when threatened, it spends most of its time on the ground in its South African habitat, screeching loudly and eating almost anything that moves. In this sense, Kori does not differ from even heavier ones.pterosaurios(flying reptiles) of the Mesozoic, such as the hugeQuetzalcoatlus.
The largest protist: the giant kelp (30 meters long)
Many people mistakenly believe that there are only four categories of life: bacteria, plants, fungi and animals, but let's not forget about protists, primitive eukaryotic organisms that tend to connect together in extended structures. Surprisingly, all algae are protists, and the biggest one is theRiesentang, which grow up to 2 feet a day and can reach a length of over 100 feet. As you can imagine, kelp forests, home to numerous giant kelp "individuals," are gigantic, tangled things that provide safe havens for various unrelated marine organisms.
Largest flightless bird: the ostrich (300 pounds)
At over 300 pounds for the largest subspecies, you could be forgiven for thinking that theostrich(ostrich camel) is about the size of a flightless bird. Then you will be surprised to know about the newly extinctthe elephant birdfrom Madagascar, which can reach the weight of half a ton or comparable sizeDonnervogel, which disappeared from the face of the earth a few million years ago. Compared to these giant ratites, the ostrich is a mere chick, albeit with a much milder temperament, feeding on plants rather than small animals.
Biggest Cobra: The Green Anaconda (500 pounds)
Compared to the other organisms on this list,cobrasThey are notoriously difficult to classify by size: even trained naturalists tend to overestimate the size of snakes they observe in the wild, and transporting a dead (let alone alive) giant python back to civilization is nearly impossible to perform detailed measurements. However, most authorities agree that the South American green anaconda is the current headline; This snake can reach lengths of over 15 feet, with well-attested individuals known to reach the 500-pound mark.
Largest clam: The giant clam (500 pounds)
A mainstay of SpongeBob SquarePants, The Little Mermaid, and just about every animated movie set in the deep blue sea, the giant clam is a truly impressive clam. The twin shells of this clam can be over four feet in diameter, and as you can imagine, these calcareous components make up most of the giant clam's weight (the soft parts of a quarter-ton specimen weigh only about 40 pounds). Despite its frightening reputation, the giant clam only closes its shell when threatened and is simply not big enough to swallow an adult human.
Largest turtle: the leatherback turtle (1000 pounds)
Testudines (turtles and tortoises) are consideredleather backit's a real outlier. This sea turtle does not have a hard shell, in fact its shell is hard and leathery, and it is also incredibly fast, able to swim at nearly 20 miles per hour. But, of course, what really sets the leatherback turtle apart from others of its species is its weight of half a ton, which puts it just above the Galapagos tortoise in the world rankings for size.ArchelonyEstupendemys, which weighed up to 2 tons each).
Largest reptile - saltwater crocodile (2,000 lbs.)
Do you remember what it was like 65 million years ago, when the largest reptiles on Earth weighed 100 tons? Well his stockvertebratesIt's fallen off since then: the largest living reptile today is the Pacific Basin saltwater crocodile, whose males can reach nearly 6 meters in length but weigh just over a ton. The saltwater crocodile isn't even the biggest crocodile that ever lived; That honor goes to two truly giant crocodiles that terrorized the world's rivers tens of millions of years ago.SarcosuchusyDeinosuchus.
Biggest fish: sunfish (2 tons)
A bit like a giant head attached to the crest of a turkey, the Sunfish (That's great) is one of the strangest inhabitants of the ocean. This eight-foot-long, two-ton fish feeds exclusively on jellyfish (which are extremely low in nutritional value, so we're talking many, many jellyfish), with females laying hundreds of millions of eggs at a time. , more than any other vertebrate. If you've never heard of himThat's great, there is good reason for this: this fish is extremely difficult to keep in aquariums and only thrives in the temperate regions of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Largest land mammal: the African elephant (5 tons)
How much food does a five-ton pachyderm need? well, the typicalAfrican elephanteats about 500 kilos of plants and drinks about 50 liters of water every day. This elephant (let's not be too sensitive) defecates a lot throughout the day and spreads the seeds of many plants that otherwise would not reach different parts of Africa. Like other elephants, the African elephant is not endangered, but neither is it thriving, as the males succumb to human poachers, who then sell their ivory tusks on the black market.
The biggest shark: the whale shark (10 tons)
Paradoxically, in the world's oceans, large sizes go hand in hand with microscopic nutrition. Like orders of magnitude the largest blue whale, theWalhaiIt feeds almost exclusively on plankton, with occasional side portions of small squid and fish. Ten tons is a conservative estimate for this shark; A dead specimen adrift off the coast of Pakistan is estimated to weigh 15 tonnes, and another dredged near Taiwan is believed to weigh 40 tonnes. Since anglers tend to overstate the size of their catch, we'll stick with the more conservative estimate!
Largest marine animal: the blue whale (200 tons)
not only theblue eelthe largest living animal; It could be the biggest animal in the history of life on Earth, pending the unlikely discovery of 200-tonne dinosaurs or marine reptiles. Like the whale shark, the blue whale feeds on microscopic plankton and filters countless gallons of seawater through the tightly interlocking fins of its jaws. It's true that it's difficult to persuade this huge whale to step on a scale, but naturalists estimate that an adult blue whale consumes three to four tons of krill every day.
Largest mushroom - honey mushroom (600 tons)
The last three items on our list are not animals, but plants andmushrooms, which raises a difficult technical problem: how to distinguish the largest "average" plant and fungus from the massive aggregations which can be said to form a single organism? We share the difference and name the honey fungus.Armillaria ostoyae, for this list; A colony in Oregon covers over 2,000 acres and weighs approximately 600 tons. Botanists estimate that this giant mass of honey mushrooms is at least 2,400 years old!
Largest single tree: Giant Sequoia (1,000 tons)
There aren't many trees you can literally drive a car through (assuming you can punch a hole in the trunk without killing it). Thea giant sequoiaIt's one such tree: its trunk measures over 25 feet in diameter, its canopy reaches over 300 feet into the sky, and the largest individuals have an estimated weight of up to a thousand tons. Giant sequoias are also among the oldest organisms on Earth; Ring counts on a tree in the Pacific Northwest gave it an estimated age of 3,500 years, around the same time as the Babylonians invented civilization.
Largest clone colony - "Pando" (6,000 tons)
A clonal colony is a group of plants or fungi that have exactly the same genome; All of its members were naturally "cloned" from a single ancestor through the process of vegetative reproduction. And the largest clone colony on Earth is "Pando", a male poplar forest spread over 100 acres of land whose last ancestor took root 80,000 years ago. Unfortunately, Pando is currently in poor condition, slowly succumbing to drought, disease and insect infestations. Botanists are desperate to resolve the situation so this colony can thrive for another 80,000 years.