We're all aware that the animal kingdom boasts a lot of interesting, often weird, creatures. In school, we learn that blue whales are the largest mammals and cheetahs are the fastest runners, but many of us don’t realise that there are other unsung heroes that have amazing abilities under their belts. This non-exclusive list of animal world record-breakers brings some rather intriguing characteristics into light.
Strongest animal: Horned dung beetle
The definitions of strength in the animal kingdom are never clear-cut, but in terms of strength to body weight ratio, the horned dung beetles reign supreme. They can lift up to 1,141 times their body weight, which is roughly the same as an average person pulling six double-decker buses. They vary in size from 1mm to 4cm and are part of the Scarabaeidae family, which feed exclusively on faeces. After studying their behaviour, researchers have uncovered the simple reason behind this phenomenal ability: to attract the ladies. The strength of the beetle is useful during their often disrupted mating rituals. Females dig tunnels in the manure, where males mate with them, but they don’t always remember their “do not disturb” signs. If a rival male enters an already occupied tunnel, the two men will fight for their girl - locking their horns and trying to pull one another out.
Longest tentacles: Lion’s Mane jellyfish
photo credit: Scott Leslie
The lion’s mane jellyfish is confined to the cold, boreal waters of the Arctic, northern Atlantic and northern Pacific oceans. The largest specimen ever recorded washed up on the shore of Massachusetts Bay, which had a reported bell (body) diameter of 2.3m and 37m long tentacles. It’s extremely sticky tentacles are grouped into 8 clusters, each consisting of over a 100 individual tentacles arranged in rows. Size also dictates colouration, where larger specimens tend to be a bright crimson to dark violet compared to lighter orange, smaller specimens.
Deadliest bite: Nile crocodile
The nile crocodile is surely an orthodontist’s worst nightmare with its sharp toothy grin. Its 68 teeth are shed and replaced throughout its life to keep them sharp. The nile crocodile grows longer than 18 feet and weighs up to a tonne, boasting the world’s strongest bite at more than 5000lbs of force per square inch. They kill their prey by holding them underwater, drowning them in the waters they inhabit. Despite their killer teeth, their jaws are not best for chewing. Instead, they grip the carcass and continuously contort their bodies to twist off the flesh. Like many animals, the nile crocodile has a weakness; the muscles utilised to open its jaw are very weak - so, you could possibly hold it shut... if you dare.
Fastest flier: Peregrine falcon
The peregrine falcon can be found nearly everywhere on Earth, except extreme polar regions, very high mountains, most tropical rainforests and New Zealand. The falcon has a body length of 34 to 58cm and a wingspan range of 74 to 120cm. Like many other birds of prey, peregrine falcons display reverse sexual dimorphisms, with the female measuring up to 30% larger than the male. The bird’s highest recorded speed is 237miles per hour during its characteristic hunting dives. Peregrines have a highly adapted keel, a bone that is specialised for flight and an attachment for muscles used in flapping wings. The peregrine falcon has a very large keel, allowing more muscle attachments and greater power generated during flight. Its pointed wings are also swept back to contribute to the bird’s streamlined figure.
Longest pregnancy: Frilled shark
Photo credit: Awashima Marine Park/Getty Images
Frilled sharks are deep-water, eel-like sharks that reach lengths of up to 2m. They are also known to have a wide, though patchy, distribution in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. These animals are aplacental viviparous, where the embryos emerge from their egg capsules inside their mother's uterus and are nourished by their yolk until birth. Frilled sharks' gestation period may be as long as three and a half years - the longest of any vertebrate. The embryonic growth rate averages at 1.4cm per month due to its extremely cold deep-sea habitat, which slows metabolic processes in the frilled shark to a glacial creep.
Smallest vertebrate: Paedophryne amanuensis
At a miniscule length of 7.7mm, the P. amanuensis frog was discovered near the Amau village in the Central Province of Papua New Guinea. They live on land among leaf litter in tropical forests, and their life cycle skips the tadpole stage commonly seen in regular frog life cycles. Instead, these animals hatch as ‘hoppers’ or miniatures of the adults. Their skeleton is greatly reduced with only 7 spinal vertebrae present. They are capable of jumping 30 times their body length and feed on small invertebrates.
Longest living: Ocean Quahog
You may have heard of Ming, the deep-sea clam, named after the Chinese dynasty during which it was born. Before dying in 2006, Ming was believed to be the oldest living animal at an age of 507 years. This makes it the longest living species with an authenticated lifespan. They are native to the North Atlantic Ocean and are harvested commercially as a food source. It is, however, not known how long Ming could have lived if it had not been collected alive during the 2006 expedition. The determination of its growth rate by an oxygen isotope study showed variable growth rate during the little ice age around 1550-1620 and milder climates in 1765-1780.