From the largest to the smallest, the fastest to the slowest to the downright bizarre
Guinness World Records isn’t just about extraordinary humans. Since the first edition in 1955, animals have always been among our most popular record holders. In fact, in a way, Guinness World Records owes its existence to a bird; the book came about after Sir Hugh Beaver – then manager of the Guinness Brewing Company – got into a debate with friends over which was Europe’s fastest game bird.
A feature about record-breaking animals wouldn’t be complete without this behemoth. It’s not only the largest animal alive today; it’s
the largest animal ever to live on our planet. To put that into context, the average adult blue whale tips the scales at over 160 tons – based on some estimates, that’s more than twice the weight of the heaviest known dinosaur, the Argentinosaurus!
Given their prodigious proportions, it’s little wonder that these all-timegiants of giants have enough records to fill a book of their own. They boast the largest heart (with arteries wide enough for a human to swim through), the largest lungs and the heaviest tongue, weighing about the same as an African bush elephant, the largest animal on land. Even a new-born – you guessed it, the largest offspring of all animals – weighs roughly the same as a full-grown white rhino and is twice the length!
An adult male red kangaroo, today’s largest marsupial, can weigh as much as 90.7 kilograms (200 pounds), yet they’re surprisingly swift, able to outpace a racehorse when travelling at full pelt. They can achieve this thanks to the super-efficient method of locomotion they’ve evolved to get around. The furthest single leap that has been reported is 12.8 metres (42 feet) and its highest jump is noted as three metres (9.8 feet)!
The average commute in the UK is about 16 kilometres (ten miles). This isn’t so far in the grand scheme of things, but other than a few hardy cyclists, let’s face it, the majority of us still rely on a car or public transport to make this journey. So spare a thought for the leatherback turtle, which completes the longest migration among all reptiles. A female tagged in Papua New Guinea in 2006 was traced to the Oregon coast in the US nearly two years later – a whopping distance of some 20,558 kilometres (12,774 miles)!
If going the distance weren’t enough, these long-haul ocean nomads also hold the distinction of plunging to the greatest depths among all chelonians. One has been scientifically measured reaching 1,200 metres (3,937 feet), a distance roughly equivalent to three Empire State Buildings in a stack, and there are unverified reports of others going even deeper still.
Peacock mantis shrimp
Talk about beauty and the beast; at first glance you might assume this crustacean’s record is connected with its psychedelic shell, but however extraordinary this critter looks, what it can do is even more impressive. For one thing, mantis shrimp – or stomatopods – have some of the most sophisticated eyes in the world. For a long time we assumed they saw a spectrum of colours we couldn’t even imagine, but a study by the University of Queensland published in 2014 suggests otherwise. Rather than using their peepers to detect a wider range of shades, it’s now thought the main purpose of the organs’ complex structure is faster perception of colour – a great advantage for detecting both prey and foes in their kaleidoscopic coral-reef home.
Mantis shrimp also pack a mean punch – the hardest strike in the animal kingdom, no less. Hitting a peak velocity of around 90 kilometres (56 miles) per hour – and remember that’s against the resistance of water – its wrecking ball of a claw can shatter the exoskeletons of other shellfish. They’ve been known to deploy this weapon on unwitting fishermen too, hence their nickname of ‘thumb-splitters’.