Mammals are warm-blooded, covered with hair, bear live young, and produce milk to feed them. We like to think of ourselves as the best mammals around. However, in many categories, other mammals have us bested — paws down. Here are 6 mammal extremes.
Weighing in at 150 tons, the blue whale isn’t only the largest mammal; it’s the largest animal known. Its ability to maintain life on such a grand scale is aided by its oceanic lifestyle.
In comparison, the male African elephant is the largest land mammal, and it weighs a mere 12 tons.
The actual smallest mammal is only slightly smaller than the animal it describes. A native of Thailand, measuring 1.14-1.3 inches and weighing 0.03-0.07 ounces, the Bumblebee bat, truly earns it’s title.
The smallest land mammal, however, is the pygmy shrew. It’s only slightly larger than the Bumblebee bat, tilting the scales at a hefty 0.05-0.09 ounces. Both pipsqueaks are so small that they’re each outweighed by two standard paperclips.
Even though their diminutive stature places them eye-to-eye with many insects, these two animals are true warm-blooded vertebrates. They are covered with hair, and their females produce milk — mammals to the core.
As might be expected, the winner in this category depends on the terrain. Mammals are found in the air, water, and land, and each domain requires different types of locomotion skills.
The fastest air mammal is the big brown bat, which can flap its way up to 15.5 miles per hour. The fastest water mammal reaches a significantly higher 34 miles per hour — and at this speed the killer whale can definitely have its choice of the catch of the day.
However, clocking in at 70 miles per hour, the overall fastest mammal is a land creature, the cheetah. Due to the amazing amount of energy required, this cat can pour on the power only for short periods of time, but that’s of little comfort to the gazelle it sets its sights on.
In a competition over slowness, three animals come to mind: the tortoise, the snail, and the sloth. Of these contestants the snail is definitely the winner of slowest animal hands down. The garden snail clocks in at a molasses-like 0.03 miles per hour. Moving at a steady pace, it would take the snail 12.5 hours to go around a standard city block.
However, the category is slowest mammal, and neither snails nor tortoises fit the bill. On that technicality, the three-toed-sloth pulls into the winner’s circle.
Three-toed-sloths have, believe it or not, three toes and spend the vast majority of their lives working in the DMV — I mean, living in the rain forests of Central and South America. (Sorry, I just saw Zootopia). These speedsters register in at 0.15 miles per hour, making them five times faster than the garden snail but 467 times slower than the cheetah.
No, this award doesn’t refer to mental capacity; that could be a much tougher call. The rhinoceros is the mammal with the thickest skin of any other mammal — or any other animal for that matter. Rough boss? Critical spouse? With one-inch-thick skin, these tough guys should be able to handle anything. Go ahead, tell them they’re fat, see if they care.
The Most Venomous
The male platypus is one of only two known venomous mammals. Here, the shrew finds itself making second place once again in our extreme mammal category. (Four species of the shrew are considered venomous.) The venom of the platypus, however, is delivered not by fangs, as is the case of all other venomous animals, but by retractable spurs on the male’s hind legs.
Even stranger, these spurs aren’t really used on predators and prey. Instead, platypus venom is reserved for battles with rival males during what must be an extreme mating season. Look at that, the platypus hits two extremes!
In the very few documented cases where humans have been envenomed, the results were intense. The unfortunate victims reported tremendous pain that did not respond to morphine and lingered for months. At least it’s not fatal.
(In case you were wondering, yes, the platypus is in fact a mammal. It’s the only currently living mammal that defies the description I mentioned in the beginning. Nonetheless, scientists have placed this creature into the class “mammalia.”)