We have always wondered about nature’s extremes. The various aspects of the living world around us has always intrigued us to elect and select the species exhibiting the greatest diversion from “normality”. Thus, we have also debated on the length of animals to choose the winner: the longest living animal on our planet. A number of contestants from the animal world compete for this title. However, the lack of conclusive records makes it extremely difficult to select any one single species as the “longest animal in the world”.
Pythons and Anacondas
Whenever we speak of length, we tend to divide our attention between animals on land and those residing in the water. In the case of animals on land, our focus immediately shifts to snakes as the longest territorial creatures. A few snakes have been known to have mind-boggling lengths and these snakes have gone down in history as one of the longest living land animals. As recently as 2016, reports from construction workers working on a road project in Penang, Malaysia, captured a lot of media attention. The workers reported discovering a reticulated python that was 24 feet 7 inches (7.5 meters) in length. The reticulated python is a python species found in Southeast Asia. Though attacks on humans are rarely reported, some individuals of this species are considered to be powerful enough to kill adult humans. Reticulated pythons are non-venomous constrictors and some individuals of this species have been known to kill prey as large as a 60-kilogram pig and a half-starved sun bear. A reticulated python, Medusa, living in captivity in Kansas City, U.S.A., is known to be longest one of its species as per the Guinness World Records. Medusa is 25 feet (7.67 meters) long. Other less reliable records have claimed reticulated pythons to be even longer that this size. A close competitor of the reticulated python is the green anaconda of South American rainforests. The green anaconda is an elusive species and very little is known about this mysterious creature. The average length of these creatures is around 17.1 feet (5.21 meters). According to some scattered reports, green anacondas that are 35 to 40 feet long, are also believed to exist but scientists are skeptical about such reports. Other snakes that have been reported to have extreme lengths include the African rock python and the Australian scrub python.
The Blue Whale
When speaking of the longest animals on Earth, we must also look into the ocean where the giants of the world actually live. The first animal that we picture when speaking of longest marine animals is the giant blue whale. This animal definitely is the closest contender for the title of the “longest animal in the world”. Some even regard it as the winner of this title since even new-born blue whales are larger in size than the largest known reticulated python. This endangered species of marine mammal can grow up to 98 feet (30 meters) in length! A female blue whale caught by whalers in the South Atlantic Ocean was found to be 110 feet (33.58 meters) long.
The Lion’s Mane Jellyfish
Giving fierce competition to the blue whale, the lion’s mane jellyfish is an unusual resident of the sea well-known for possessing tentacles that are over 100 feet long in some specimens. The lion’s mane jellyfish is found in the cold waters of the Arctic, North Atlantic, and North Pacific Ocean. These creatures possess a red-gold colored bell and a massive tuft of long, narrow, fragile, and translucent tentacles. A report claims that a giant lion’s mane jellyfish with a length of 121.4 feet (37.0 meters) washed up on the shores of the Massachusetts Bay in 1870.
Snakes, whales, and jellyfish thus all compete against each other to be the longest animals on Earth. However, that is not all and there is yet another very unexpected animal that can be elected as the longest animal in the world. To find this creature you have to look neither on land nor in the deep waters of the ocean since the bootlace worm inhabits the intermediary zone in between the land and sea, in the sandy, muddy or rocky shores of the sea or tide pools. The worm usually remains highly coiled up and hence its true length is not immediately visible. The longest known bootlace worm was studied in 1864 and was found to be 180 feet (55 meters) in length. Officially, this worm was declared as the longest animal in the world.