The animal kingdom is full of a diverse range of creatures, from tiny insects to massive mammals. Among these creatures, some hold the distinction of being the largest of their kind, often dwarfing their relatives in comparison. From the towering giraffes of Africa to the massive blue whales that swim in our oceans, these animals represent some of the most awe-inspiring creatures of nature.
In this post, we will explore the largest animals by type from around the world, ranging from the tallest land animals to the heaviest creatures to walk the earth or swim the ocean today.
Largest Animals By Type
Largest Sea Animals
Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)
The Blue Whale is the largest animal, by mass that is alive today. It is also the largest animal by mass that we know of, that has ever existed. They are known to reach a size of around 100 to 110 feet (30-33 meters) and up to 200 tons in weight. They can be found in all of the worlds large Oceans, migrating between the poles and the tropics seasonally.
The Blue Whale has a long tapering body that appears stretched in comparison with the stockier build of other whales. Their head is flat and U-shaped and has a prominent ridge running from the blowhole to the top of the upper lip.
A Blue Whales tongue weighs around 3 tons and when fully expanded its mouth is large enough to hold up to 100 tons of food and water. Its heart weighs 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds) and is the largest known in any animal.
Colossal Squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni)
The colossal squid is the largest cephalopod in the sea. It inhabits the Southern Ocean and is believed to be the largest squid species in terms of mass, reaching at least 495 kilograms (1,091 lb). It is the heaviest living invertebrate species.
They may reach up to 46 feet (14 m) in length with a mantle length of 2 to 4 m. On average, the colossal squid is slightly shorter than the giant squid, but its stocky frame is heavier. Both of these squid exhibit features of gigantism
The colossal squid also has the largest eyes documented in the animal kingdom, with an estimated diameter of 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16 in).
Lions Mane Jellyfish (Cyanea capillata)
The Lion’s Mane Jellyfish is an incredible creature to behold. Named due to the appearance of their numerous tentacle having a similar appearance to that of the big cat’s mane, these large jellyfish have been recorded at even greater lengths than the blue whale.
There can be enormous differences in size between different individuals, with some having a bell diameter as small as 50 cm, while large individuals can have a bell over 2 meters across. They seem to follow the same principals of Bergmann’s Rule, whereby individuals living in northern latitudes are larger than those further south, in warmer waters.
The bell has eight ‘lobes’, and each of these has between 70 to 150 tentacles on average. It is these tentacles that give the lion’s mane jellyfish their huge length. The tentacles on a large individual may reach 30 meters (100 ft) in length, but the longest recorded tentacle length for these jellyfish is 36.6 meters (120 ft).
Despite their incredible length, these jellyfish are not very ‘massive’, and are made of up to 95% water. A large specimen can weigh in at around 200 lbs which is pretty light for a creature of this size.
The sting on the tentacles of these jellyfish can be active long after they are dead. In 2010, the remains of a lions mane washed up on shore, stinging 150 people in New Hampshire in the USA.
Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus)
The Whale Shark, is the largest living fish species to be found anywhere in the worlds oceans. They prefer to stay in the warm tropical or equatorial waters, and do not venture too far north or south beyond the tropics.
As a filter feeder, it has a spacious mouth which can be up to 1.5 metres (4.9 feet) wide and can contain between 300 – 350 rows of tiny teeth. Their skin can be up to 10 centimetres (3.9 inches) thick!
These whale sharks are sexually dimorphic with females growing to be much larger than males. The average male is estimated to reach between 8 to 9 meters (26 to 30 ft) whereas females can reach 14.5 meters (48 ft) on average. This data was collected on one observation researching growth over a 10 year period. Other studies suggest a size of up to 21.9 meters (72 ft) in length is possible for a whale shark.
Largest Land Mammals
African Bush Elephant (Loxodonta Africana)
The African Bush Elephant is the largest of all terrestrial animals from around the world, that is alive today. These large, charming animals are found around 37 countries in Africa, but populations are fragmented and vulnerable. As such, they are listed as ‘Threatened’ on the IUCN Red List.
The largest African elephants have been recorded with a weight over 10.4 tons and a height up to 3.96 meters (13 feet) high at the shoulder. The average size however, is around 3.2 meters (10..5 feet) and around 7 tons in weight, which is still the equivalent of around 78 adult human males weighing an average of 90 kilograms each.
The African elephant heart weights 22 kilograms and circulates about 450 litres of blood. Inner ‘cleaning’ is performed by a 77 kilograms liver. They have a tongue that weights around 12 kg, which helps them to eat around 250 kilograms of food every day!
White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)
The White Rhino is one of the 5 species of rhinoceros that still exists and is one of the few megafauna species left. Behind the elephants, it is the most massive land animal in the world. These giants are found mostly around the southern countries of Africa. There are two subspecies of White Rhino, the north and the south, but there are only two north white rhinos believed to be left in the wild today.
The White Rhino has a massive body and large head, a short neck and broad chest. They are known to reach 3,600 kg (7,900 lbs) comfortably, with some unconfirmed examples claimed to reach up to 4,500 kg (9,900 lbs). They grow to have a head-and-body length of 3.35 – 4.2 meters (11 – 13.9 feet) and a shoulder height of 150 – 185 cm (60 – 73 inches). Males tend to grow larger than females.
Hippo (hippopotamus amphibius)
The Hippopotamus is the third largest living land mammal on the earth. It is a large, mostly plant-eating African mammal, one of only two extant, and three or four recently extinct, species in the family ‘Hippopotamidae’.
Of the two extant species alive today, the Common Hippopotamus is the largest. The Pygmy Hippo is much smaller. The average mature adult hippo can reach 3.5 meters (11 feet) in length, 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall at the shoulder and weigh from 1500 kg to 3200 kg (3,300 to 7,000 lbs). Some adult hippos have the potential to be bigger than some adult white rhinos, but the maximum size recorded for a hippo is less than the maximum recorded for the rhino.
Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)
Giraffes are the tallest land animals from around the world alive today. The taxonomy for these large ungulates is under review. Until recently it was believed that there was one species (Giraffa camelopardalis) with several subspecies, but now there is a growing consensus that there are several distinct species.
The giraffe is instantly recognizable by its exceptionally long neck and spots. Adult males stand 15 – 19 feet (4.6 – 6.0 meters) tall, whereas females are shorter at 13 – 16 feet (4 – 4.8 meters) tall.
Adult males weigh between 1,764 – 4,255 lbs (800 – 930 kg), while females weigh around 1,213 – 2,601 lbs (550 – 1,180 kg). As well as their incredibly long neck, the giraffe has the longest tail of any land mammal.
Ostrich (Struthio camelus)
The Ostrich is the world’s largest flightless bird, and it is more massive than any bird of flight too. These giant avian animals are native to the savannas and grasslands of South Africa. They are a species in the infraclass Palaeognathae, which also include many of the other large flightless birds.
Ostriches can grow to measure 1.7 – 2.8 metres (5.5 – 9.4 feet) in height and weigh 130 – 150 kilograms. Despite being flightless, ostriches have small wings that are covered with fluffy feathers. The wings are too small to lift the ostriches heavy bodies off the ground and into the air but are used as rudders when the bird is running to help it change direction.
They have very long, powerful legs that enable them to run at speeds of over 65 kilometres per hour (40 miles per hour).
Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)
Emus are the second largest bird by mass globally, and the largest bird in Australia. They are the only member of the Genus: Dromaius. Although Emus resemble Ostriches, emus have a longer, lower profile and 3 toes on each foot (Ostriches have only 2 toes on each foot). The closest relative to the emu is a Cassowary, another flightless bird.
The emu can grow to be as tall as 2 meters (6.5 feet) in height (1 – 1.3 meters at the shoulder) and weigh up to 45 kilograms (99 lbs). Male and female emus are similar in appearance although females are generally larger.
Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans)
The Wandering Albatross is not the most massive bird of flight, but it has the largest wingspan, of any existing bird in the world. These large sea birds are found around the Southern Ocean, and are one of the most far-ranging birds, in their circumpolar range. It is one of the most studied birds alive today.
The wingspan of the wandering albatross spans between 2.51 to 3.5 meters (8 ft 3 in to 11 ft 6 in) on average. The largest examples though, can have a wingspan up to 3.7 meters (12 ft 2 in). Larger individuals have been claimed, but not verified. Males tend to be larger than females.
Their exceptionally large wingspan to body weight ratio, allows for these large birds to maintain altitude and glide for hours at a time, without the need to flap their wings very often at all.
Japanese Spider Crab (Macrocheira kaempferi)
The Japanese Spider Crab is the largest known living arthropod and has the largest leg span of any arthropod, sometimes measuring up to 12.5 feet (3.8 meters) from the tip of one front claw to the other. Its body can grow to about 15 inches (37 cm) wide and it can weigh up to 42 lbs (19 kg). Males are generally larger than females.
Because the Japanese spider crab has a hard exoskeleton that does not grow, they must shed their shells. This unique molting behavior occurs for 103 minutes, in which the crab loses its mobility and starts molting its carapace rear and ends with molting its walking legs.
American Lobster (Homarus americanus)
The American Lobster (Homarus americanus) is also sometimes known as the Maine Lobster or the Canadian Red Lobster. They are commonly found along the Atlantic coast of the USA and Canada. While the Japanese spider crab may be the longest arthropod, these lobsters are the heaviest. This also makes them the heaviest crustaceans in the world.
These lobsters can reach a body length of 64 cm (25 in), which is much more compact than the Japanese spider crab. This compact mass however, can weigh up to and over, 20 kg (44 lb) in weight. The largest ever recorded, was caught off the coast of Nova Scotia, and weighed in at 44.4 lbs.
Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
Crocodiles may look quite prehistoric, however, they are the most advanced reptile of our time. Unlike other reptiles they have a four-chambered heart, diaphragm and cerebral cortex. One species, the saltwater crocodile, is also considered to be the largest reptile alive today. These large reptiles are found in northern Australia and throughout South-east Asia.
Male saltwater crocs can grow up to an average length between 6-6.3 meters (20-21 ft), and a weight of 1,000–1,300 kg (2,200–2,900 lbs). Females are usually considerably smaller, averaging around 3 meters in length.
The oldest crocodiles are estimated to have lived around 71 years on average and there is limited evidence that some individuals may exceed 100 years.
Reticulated Python (Malayopython reticulatus)
The Reticulated Python is known to be the longest snake in the world. It is also one of the top three heaviest snakes too. These pythons are native to South and Southeast Asia. It is unfortunately popular for both it’s skin and use in traditional ‘medicines’, as well as being a popular pet species.
The reticulated python has been widely studied, and it’s average size has been determined through observation and measurement of over 1000 individuals. They range in length between 1.5 to 6.5 meters (4 ft 11 in to 21 ft 4 in), although snakes over 6 meters (19 ft 8 in) long are extremely rare. They weigh between 1 – 75 kg (2 lb – 165 lb). There are anecdotal accounts of larger individuals, but these are unverified scientifically.
Chinese Giant Salamander (Andrias davidianus)
The South Chinese Salamander is the biggest amphibian in the world. Though it was bundled together taxonomically with the Chinese Salamander, it has been re-established as a distinct species since 2019. These salamanders may well be extinct in the wild, and at the very least are critically endangered.
The largest specimen ever observed and measured, was registered in the 1920’s at 1.8 meters (5.9 ft) long. The Chinese Salamander (Andrias davidianus) is almost as large, averaging around 1.15 m (3.8 ft) in length, but capable of growing to around 1.79 meters, and over 50 kg in weight.
Interestingly enough, the third largest amphibian is also a salamander, specifically the Japanese Giant Salamander. It is a very close relative of the Chinese giant, and can reach a length of up 5 feet (1.5 meters) long.
Red Kangaroo (Osphranter rufus)
The Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus) is the largest of all the kangaroo species and the largest of all marsupials. It is found across mainland Australia but avoids more fertile areas in the south, east coast and northern rainforests.
Males can grow up to 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) in body length and weigh up to 85 kg (187.4 lbs). Females measure 1.1 meters (3.6 feet) in length and weigh 35 kg (77.2 lbs). Red kangaroos also have very long tails which can measure 0.9 metres (3 feet) in length. Females are smaller than males and their coats are a pale grey color with a blue tinge.
Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis)
The komodo dragon is a member of the monitor lizard family and is the largest living species of lizard. Because of their size and because there are no other carnivorous animals, in their island habitat, these apex predators dominate the ecosystem in which they live.
Komodo Dragons grow to an average length of 2 – 3 meters (6.5 – 10 ft) and weigh around 70 kg (154 lbs). Captive komodo dragons may often weigh more, as much as 166 kg (365 lbs). They have long, flat heads with rounded snouts, scaly skin, bowed legs and huge, muscular tails.
The Komodo dragon prefers hot and dry places and typically lives in dry open grassland, savanna, scrubland and tropical forests at low elevations.
Largest Extinct Animals
Dinosaurs are not the only large animals to have roamed the world millions of years ago. Some of the species that roam the Earth today had some pretty large ancestors back then. Here are examples of one of the largest extinct birds and one of the largest extinct land mammals.
Palagornis Sandersi is an extinct species of bird, that flew the skies over 25 million years ago. There is only one fossil specimen identified so far. From these remains, this massive bird is estimated to have had a wingspan of between 6.06 and 7.38 meters (19.9 and 24.2 ft). That is up to twice as large as the wandering albatross which has the largest wingspan today.
The Paraceratherium is an ancient ancestor of the rhino that existed 23-34 million years ago. These large mammals are estimated to have reached around 4.8 meters (15.7 ft) tall at the shoulder, with a length of around 7.4 meters (24.3 ft). More accurate measurement will only be achievable once more fossil evidence becomes available.