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April 29, 2011

Giants of the Deep

© OCEANA / Carlos Suárez


It´s widely known that whales are among the largest animals on earth. But what other giants lie beneath the surface of the seas? Unlike giant animals roaming on land such as elephants and hippos, it´s trickier to explore the vast and immense oceans – and so much remains undiscovered.

Nevertheless, scientists have encountered a few surprising giants of the sea, including the aptly named whale shark. The world´s largest living fish can measure up to an intimidating13 m, but  this gentle filter-feeder mostly eats plankton.

The whale shark is closely matched in length by the giant squid. But did you know there is an even bigger squid? The colossal squid. Reaching up to 14 m, this giant inhabits the Antarctic ocean, though its tough beak and swarming tentacles are no match for the appetite of the 20-metre long sperm whale. Famed for its portrayal in the classic novel Moby Dick, the sperm whale is the largest toothed whale.

Which begs the question: what is the largest whale? It doesn’t boast giant, or colossal in its name, in fact, the largest whale and animal ever known to have existed is humbly named the blue whale.  Now endangered, the once-abundant blue whale is 20 times heavier than the African Bush Elephant, the world´s largest land animal. Now that´s beyond colossal!