Know It All: What’s the Largest Animal to Ever Live?

If you guessed 'dinosaurs' you'd be horribly mistaken. Do you know which creature takes the prize for being the largest to ever live?

Everybody has that moment when they realize they don’t know about something that they should probably know about. Whether it’s history, language, science, or cultural phenomena, you’ve felt the stinging personal embarrassment of a moment wherein you realize there’s some common knowledge that isn’t so common. Don’t feel bad; nobody knows everything. Nobody, that is, except me and my sidekick, The Internet!

Somewhere in the world, a confused soul begs the question…

What’s the Largest Animal to Ever Live?

When someone imagines the largest creature(s) to ever roam the Earth, the picture invariably involves dinosaurs. Is this accurate? Was the largest animal in the history of our planet indeed a member of the superorder Dinosauria?

The answer is “no”. I’ll let you think about that for a moment.

[For the record: the most impressive dinosaur weight based on a complete skeleton is the 65-ton Brachiosaurus. There is a possibility that Argentinosaurus (and/or other Titanosaurs) may have approached the 100-ton threshold but it’s difficult to know for sure with limited fossil records.]

In terms of the largest creature on Earth (either now or at any point in history), nothing appears to have ever come close to the Blue Whale, a marine mammal weighing in at just under 200 tons (that’s 400,000 lbs.). And in terms of the biggest creature currently on land? That would be the African Elephant, which has produced specimens weighing in at over 13 tons.

Those measurements are obviously staggering but all of those creatures (even the dinosaurs), as you may know, are categorized as being strictly herbivorous. Neither a blue whale, an elephant, nor any sauropod would ever hunt a human being for food and so, the most fascinatingly frightening part of the answer to the “what’s the largest animal ever?” question remains unanswered.

So, when it comes to the crowd-pleasing carnivores, the largest species on Earth is… *drumroll* the 11,000 lb. Southern Elephant Seal!

…all right, I know. “Elephant seal” is not the answer you expected nor is it satisfying enough and thus, we must go further and more specific: what are the largest living land creatures that would totally kill/eat a man, if the situation called for it (read: carnivores)? Your winners? In the mammal family, both the Polar Bear and Brown Bear each routinely weigh in at over one ton while the Saltwater Crocodile has tipped the scales at 1-2 tons.

The good news? You’d really have to go out of your way to directly encounter any of these creatures in the wild. So relax.

Now you know.

Justin Brown

Justin Brown is an artist and writer living in Virginia. He channels most of his enthusiasm into making things for his online art shop, Artness! by Justin Brown. You can keep up to date with him, his worldly adventures, and his dogs by following him on Instagram and on Facebook