Some scientific discoveries can be stunning. The natural world is a marvel of diversity. Animal species on land are easier to find, while the oceans present a different picture.
In this list are animals of significant size or unique for their endurance.
1) The ‘Longest’ Animal’ Of Them All
(Image credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute)
Researchers of the Schmidt Ocean Institute exploring the deep-sea trenches and canyons off the Australian coast stumbled upon a super-long stringy creature. They surmised that this wiry creature could be the “largest animal ever.”
Called a siphonophore, this bioluminescent creature measured 45 meters in length. It comprises several small critters that are called zooids. Every zooid has a life of its own but stays connected to its fellow zooids. Each zooid performs a function for the whole siphonophore. Zooids are asexual and a siphonophore only about as thick as a broomstick measured around.
2) Longest Flight By A Bird
A male Bar-tailed godwit, a raucous, long-beaked bird with cinnamon coloring, did the undefilable- a long-haul flight of great distance.
Bar-tailed godwits are renowned for their extended hauling capabilities. They have an incredible fuel-to-energy efficiency ratio. They are built for this resembling a jet fighter with great aerodynamic potential- long pointed wings and sleek body design.
This godwit called 4BBRW took off from South-West Alaska and kept airborne for 11 days straight to New Zealand. The passage distance was 7,581 miles (12,200 km). This despite the easterly winds that prolonged it. The satellite clock he was tagged with clocked it at 7,987 miles ( 12,854 km).
The record 4BBRW punched out was also that of a sister Bar-tailed godwit that did 7,145 miles (11,500 km) in 9 days along the same route in 2007.
3) The Largest Turtle Ever
The unearthing of an eight million-year-old turtle shell in Venezuela left scientists shell shocked.
The intact shell measured 8 feet (2.4 m) in length, which scientists estimate its weight at a staggering 2500 lbs ( 1,145 kgs).
Researchers have concluded that this is 100 fold to its closest any living relative, the Amazon river turtle, and double the size of the marine leatherback, the largest living turtle species.
It is most probable that their massiveness is because of their natural habitat of warm wetlands and lakes.
4) The Largest Bird
Picture Credits: unsplash.com
The Albatross is the giant bird on the planet. With a wingspan of around 12 feet, the Albatross is a wanderer of the seas.
In time sailor superstition gave this grand bird great dishonor. An albatross circling a ship was the precursor of bad weather.
Seamen believe that killing an albatross is called peril as it carries the soul of a sailor.
In 1797, the publishing of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, lent further credence.
The sighting of an albatross, as seasoned sailors know, is a sign of land close by as albatrosses can venture further out to sea.
Captain James Cook in the 1770s vouched that sailors caught and ate albatrosses.
The punishment for the mariner was to carry the Albatross around his neck in Coleridge’s poems. It has become symbolic with expressing “carrying a burden.”
5) The Largest Butterfly
Pictures Credit: unsplash.com
With a wingspan of 1 foot, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is the undoubted monarch of butterflies. It is found in the rain forests of Papua New Guinea and is rare.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has placed this butterfly on the endangered list.
The females are larger and are brown—the males though slightly smaller with wingspans of 6.5 to 7.5 inches. The males can be yellow, black, green, and blue.
6) The Largest Frog
Picture Credits: https://www.biographic.com/
The goliath frog, an amphibian, can grow up to more than a foot long and weigh more than 7 lbs.
They are larger than house cats and are fantastic jumpers- up to 10 feet forward.
Sadly they are highly coveted in the African bushmeat trade and face extinction as they are a great source of protein.
Cameroon is the center of the bushmeat trade. Leave alone pangolins and great apes; the goliath frog has become the poacher’s favorite.
Researchers have surmised that their numbers and body size are coming down rapidly. However, local hunters say they have to venture further to find these frogs. Moreover, their size has gone down too.
The International Union For Conservation of Nature (IUCN) agrees. Over the last 15 years, the Goliath frog population has been down by 50%. As a result, they are on the Endangered list.
Gerard Tasse, a graduate student of the University of Buea, conducts surveys to determine Cameroon’s distribution and density of goliath frogs, the first step to arriving at a sustainable harvesting target.
Another initiative is by herpetologist Gonwouo Nono LeGrand of the Cameroon Herpetology-Conservation Biology Foundation partnering with scientists of the Museum fur Naturkunde, Berlin, to create a captive breeding program, a first of its kind for the goliath frog.
7) Giant Squid
The Giant Squid is from the family of cephalopods. Sighting of these creatures is rare as they inhabit deep underwater, and the oceans are vast.
On record, the largest giant squid measured 43 feet (13 meters) and would have weighed over a ton.
We know little of them—floating carcasses found by fishermen were the only source until 2006.
Researchers hung a bait under a research vessel off the Ogasawara Islands in Japan, attempting to snare a giant squid. As the cameras rolled, they could snag a 24-feet (7 meters) and haul it to the surface. As a result, the whole world could now see a giant squid (though this one was not a mature adult) living and breathing.
In 2012, After years of search, scientists of Japan’s National Museum teaming with colleagues of the Japanese public broadcaster NHK and the Discovery Channel made a stunning find. Finally, they could film a magnificent, fully grown giant squid in its’ natural habitat. (a must-see)
The giant squid has eight arms, two of which are longer and are the feeding tentacles to capture prey. These feeding tentacles are very long, nearly double the length of the body. They snatch prey 33-feet (10 meters) away with these tentacles tipped with hundreds of robust razor-sharp-toothed suckers.
The eyes are the size of dinner plates that can absorb more light, so spot lurking predators or prey in the dark.
There are about 500 species of squid ranging in size from 1 inch to the enormous giant squid.
All cephalopods have well-developed brains and move through the water using jet propulsion. In addition, many have ink sacs that allow them to change color and texture in the blink of an eye.
8) Largest Bat
The Golden-crowned Flying Fox, this megabat is a fruit eater found only in the Philippines.
It has a 5-6 feet wingspan and weighs about 2.6 lbs. They avoid humans, and where hunting or roost disturbance is predominant, they retreat to quiet native forests roosting high on inaccessible slopes.
The flying fox, a frugivore, has eating habits that play a pivotal role in multiple ecosystems. As it eats only fruits, especially figs, it distributes its seeds all over the forest, contributing significantly to reforestation.
Sadly, they are becoming more difficult to find. Destruction of habitat and hunting have brought about a steep decline in the past. The trend continues. Flying foxes have disappeared from their roosting sites on many of the islands in the Philippines.
Many local communities have hunted them down for sale, sport, or consumption. In addition, 90% eradication of old forests has contributed.
Efforts to preserve flying fox species, the Bat Conservation International (BCI) has teamed up with two Filipino NGOs.
The goal is to collaborate with other NGOs, local and government units to educate and promote the protection of roosting sites and inform people.
9) Largest Arthropod
Arthropods (insects, spiders, and other invertebrates, including isopods with toughened shells) make up the largest animal group.
In 2018, researchers caught this new species from the deep waters of the Indian Ocean off the southern coast of Java, Indonesia.
Biologists named this ‘Sea Cockroach’ Darth Vader Isopod for its striking spacesuit-like resemblance to the Star Wars villain.
Picture Credits: LKCNHM/Instagram
The Darth Vader Isopod was formally named Bathynomus Raksasa. Raksasa in Indonesian means giant.
Raksasa was the first giant isopod found in Indonesian waters.
Earlier finds were in the Gulf of Mexico, the South China Sea, and the Coral sea.
Before Darth Vader, researchers caught a supergiant, isopod two-and-a-half-feet long in the Gulf of Mexico.
Picture Credits: Deep Sea News
There are around 10,000 species of isopods ranging in size from a few millimeters to 15 inches.
The features of all isopods are similar- four sets of jaws, two sets of antennae, and a body comprising seven segments.
They are related to crabs, shrimps, and land-dwelling isopods such as woodlice.
10) The Goliath Spider
Picture Credit: Piotr Naskrecki
The Goliath spider is also known as the Goliath Birdeater. However, the birdeater could be a misnomer as an 18th-century engraving showing one snatching a hummingbird.
The birdeater spider hunts by stealth and inhabits South American forests.
The Goliath Birdeater is the undisputed king of spiders. This tarantula is an enormous arachnid that weighs up to six ounces and has nearly a foot leg span.
Insects, rodents, and frogs make up their menu. The Goliath has inch-long fangs that act like hypodermic needles injecting neurotoxins into the prey. Spiders cannot ingest solid food. Instead, the neurotoxins liquefy the prey.
They are considered a delicacy in parts of South America.
The birdeater does not pose a threat to humans, says entomologist Piotr Naskrecki but adds a bite can be like a nail driven through your hand.