If I were to ask you what's the largest thing
to have ever lived on planet earth, most people
would say... THE BLUE WHALE OF COURSE! But,
despite popular belief... it's not!
So, what on earth... is or should I say was?
I’m Stu, this is Debunked, and we’re here
to sort the truth from the myths and the facts
from the misconceptions.
Okay, so if the Blue Whale sets the benchmark
by which all other living creatures are measured,
it probably makes sense to first establish
just how BIG a Blue Whale can get?
The biggest one ever discovered was found
in the Southern Ocean of Antarctica back in
1947. it weighed in at a hefty 190 metric
tons (209.4 US TONS / 418,878 lb),
which is the equivalent to 104 standard family
SUVs. It also measured a huge 27.6 meters
(90 ft 6 in) long, close to the length of
a short haul airliner (Airbus 318)
and its estimated volume was roughly the size
of 7 fuel trucks, at 223 cubic meters (7875
feet3). Remember that for later…
What could possibly out-size something this
Well, whales first appeared around 40 million
years ago, so to find out what could possibly
top such a titan,
it would make sense to take a look at this
prehistoric era of Earth’s history,
when great monstrous-sized beasts walked the
plants were the size of VWs and colossal creatures
swam in our oceans.
So, let’s start with dinosaurs... or more
- a group of four legged veggiesaurus’ with
long tails and small heads.
The largest of these dinosaurs to have ever
walked the Earth is believed to be the Argentinosaurus.
Its discovery in the 1990s stunned paleontologists
the world over,
with a length of 35 meters and a weight of
70 metric tons (tonnes / 70,000kg)!
Put this next to most people’s common point
of dino sized reference - the T-Rex, and it
dwarfs the goat eating carnivore.
However the title was hotly contended in 2017
by the discovery of the Patagotitan mayorum.
This titanosaur was believed to have a skeleton
10% larger than the Argentinosaurus,
but recent weight estimations put it just
shy at 69 tonnes.
Both Titanosaurs maybe longer than the whale,
but put the Argentinosaurus
and the Patagotitan on a set of scales and
the pair together wouldn’t out weigh our
big blue heffer.
In fact, Whales are so much larger because
they live in the ocean.
On land, animals suffer the full effect of
gravity, but for sea based organisms;
the water’s buoyancy reduces the strain
on their muscles and skeletons, allowing them
to grow to such vast sizes.
When something as huge as a blue whale becomes
beached or stranded on land,
their muscles can’t support their body weight
out the water and they will basically be crushed
to death under their own weight.
So with the ocean providing the best environment
for a creature to super-size itself,
let's take a look in to the deep blue, and
more specifically the Cretaceous period to
see what competition there would have been...
Now anyone who's witnessed this scene before
will surely think that this prehistoric monster
offers some competition for a Blue Whale?
That, is a Mosasaur…
and THAT is a GREAT WHITE SHARK serving as
an amuse bouche.
Now, if this is your average sized Great White
then the Mosasaur would make up the length
of about 9 of these sharks.
With your average Great White measuring in
at 5.3 meters, that means the Mosasaur measures
in at nearly 48 METERS!
And this is how our Blue Whale sizes up against
But here's where Hollywood gets carried away
Mosasaurs aren’t believed to have grown
any longer than 18 meters,
with the largest one to have been excavated
sitting at a modest 15 meters,
meaning Jurassic World’s reptile is grotesquely
Anyway that’s enough science fiction, let's
get back to the science fact.
What is the largest creature to have ever
swam in our oceans?, Fortunately, a discovery
in 2018 may have the answer.
Measuring in at nearly 26 meters, that’s
only just short of our largest blue whale,
it’s believed that this giant Ichthyosaur
may have been the largest aquatic reptile
However, with its dolphin-like shape, a long
pointy jaw and streamlined body, it’s estimated
weight falls far below that of the Whale,
meaning the Blue Whale still stands as the
largest animal to have ever swam in our planet’s
Let’s leave the wet stuff behind now and
head back to land,
where the competition to be crowned largest
living thing is starting to hot up.
What stands taller than the largest dinosaurs
and doesn’t suffer the effect of gravity
like other living, breathing organisms?
As we travel to the coast of California, we’ll
find the Redwoods National Park,
and here you’ll see, Hyperion!
Even fantasy doesn’t top this living behemoth,
take a recent incarnation of Godzilla and
put it next to the Sequoia,
and it stands around 10% taller at a staggering
And if Godzilla’s not your thing then take
a look at how the Statue Of Liberty sizes
Yet, height isn’t everything, we’re after
the largest and that doesn’t necessarily
mean the tallest, so for that we need to travel
down the coast to meet General Sherman,
a 2,100 year old Giant Sequoia. He may stand
at a humble 82.6 meters (271 ft) tall by comparison,
but has a whopping volume of 1,487 cubic meters
(52,513 cubic feet),
blowing old Bluey out of the water! Because
in fact you could squeeze around 7 blue whales
inside this tree.
When the General’s root system is taken
in to account it’s believed that this single
organism would weigh 1,814 tonnes (4,000,000
And, as astounding as those stats are, there
was once a tree larger than the General
, measuring 1,727 cubic meters, but it was
sadly cut down in the 1940s.
However, even with these giants of the forest,
believe it or not we’ve still not found
the largest thing to have ever lived on our
To find what we’re looking for, we need
to travel to the Blue Mountains Of Eastern
and here you won’t find the largest living
organism towering over the forest,
swimming through the lakes or stomping around
Instead, we need to look below our feet. Under
the forest floor of the Malheur National Forest,
you’ll find something that you may not have
expected to come out on top in this video.
While we’ve been looking at all the relevant
Kingdoms of Life on planet earth,
there’s one we’re forgetting… Fungi
(Fun-gee), OR Fungi (Fun-guy) or Fungi (Fun-jei),
depending on where you're from!
Here, on the ground, we find the Armillaria
ostoyae, or more commonly known as the Honey
All that we generally see is the fruiting
body, what we would consider a mushroom or
But this is often only 10% of a fungus, the
rest of the organism, the vegetative part,
is below the earth.
To make this concept more familiar, imagine
this as a fruit tree, and you’d see the
branches and stems all below ground with only
the fruit appearing above.
This fungus however is no ally to trees. The
Honey Fungus is actually devouring the forest
from the ground up.
Now most people won’t think of fungi as
as they are in fact a cornerstone to the entire
ecosystem of a forest,
usually breaking down organic debris like
fallen leaves and transferring essential minerals
to the plants.
Here, however, the Armillaria ostoyae has
a much more parasitic purpose.
It attaches itself to the forest’s conifer
trees and begins to feed off of their roots,
killing the tree in the process.
Nicknamed the Humongous Fungus, the wealth
of trees in this area has enabled it to spread
far and wide,
and currently this fungi stretches across
2,200 acres or 8.9 square kilometers (3.4
square miles) below the soil!
To put what you are seeing here in to perspective,
that is the equivalent...
of around 1,700 NFL football fields, or 36,500
Now, the discovery of the Humongous Fungus
sparked debate as to what constitutes a ‘single
But it can be succinctly summed up by Biology
Professor Tom Volk...
Which is exactly what the Honey Fungus is,
meaning this is indeed a single living organism,
just like the Giant Sequoia or the Blue Whale.
And it’s not just the extensive area it
covers that makes the Armillaria ostoyae so
it’s discoverer James B. Anderson from the
University of Toronto recently surveyed the
site, and now estimates
that if the entire fungus were dug up out
of the ground and weighed,
it would top the scales at 400 tonnes, more
than double the heft of a Blue Whale!
But, as with anything at this scale, it brings
with it some controversy.
There is another single organism spread over
a vast area that is touting for the same title
of Largest Living Organism.
Head down to Utah and you’ll find this huge
...nope back out a little… there. This,
is one, tree.
Known as the ‘Trembling Giant’ OR ‘Pando’
(Latin for “I, Spread.”)
this entire grove of 47,000 Quaking Aspen
trees has grown from a single root system.
You see, Aspens find most success in regenerating
meaning sprouting from roots (not from seedlings),
this results in what’s termed a ‘clone’.
Just like the Honey Fungus, this forest is
genetically identical and it behaves as one
With the changing seasons, the whole forest
changes color and sheds all its leaves in
And, most fascinatingly, as an old tree dies
in the clonal grove, signals are sent from
the tree out to the network of roots,
which then stimulate new growth for the next
generation to replace the old.
Now this colony may look substantially more
impressive than the humble honey Fungus,
but... we’re only looking at 106 acres.
Less than 5%, of the area covered by the Fungus.
So surely there’s no competition? Well,
the complications come when weight is included
in the criteria.
As we’ve learnt the Humongous Fungus weighs
in at 400 tonnes, where as it’s estimated
that Pando smashes through that record weighing
a colossal six… thousand tonnes!
In fact the ‘United States Department Of
Agriculture’ list the both Pando and the
Humongous Fungus as the ‘Largest Organism
So, surely the only way that this can be settled
is to confirm it with the great holders of
over at the Guinness World Records.
Well no, the record for ‘Largest Living
Organism’ seems so controversial that even
Guiness haven’t yet declared it.
According to their records, Pando is confirmed
as the ‘Most Massive Plant’
while the Honey Fungus holds the record for
The most common criteria, however, that declares
anything as ‘Largest’ is specified under
And under this, the Humungus Honey Fungus
is the outright winner.
Even if you took into account the total estimated
volume of the two contenders
then the Armillaria Ostoyae decimates the
Quaking Aspen at more than double its size.
Pando is however, believed to hold the slightly
less grandiose record for
‘Largest Known Organism On Earth In Terms
Of Dry-Weight Mass’
as fungi are around 92% water. (Trees = 50%
On the other hand, the Humongous Fungus has
increased in size with subsequent surveys,
where as, sad but true, Pando is dying.
It has substantially reduced over the past
70 years due to human interference.
And, it’s thought that within the next 10
to 20 years, up to 80% of the entire grove
Dr Paul Rogers, an Ecologist who recently
led a conservation effort to protect Pando,
We look at the largest things to have ever lived on our planet, and it doesn’t stop with the Blue Whale or the Patagotitan!
Join us as we debunk one of the biggest misconceptions in the world!
CREDITS Stu K - Researcher | Writer | Producer | Illustrator | Animator | Editor | Presenter Robin B - Guest VO Martin R - Social Thanks to our Patreon Supporters, with Special Thanks to Chris Thompson
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