We love to talk about the -ests. You know, the sexiest man alive, wealthiest billionaire, oldest person on Earth, youngest to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Makes sense, since 99.9% of us will never be the -est we are fascinated by those few who are. Our fascination extends beyond the -ests of our species, of course, to both inanimate objects (fastest car, largest collection of PEZ containers, tallest building) and to other animals (deadliest snake, fastest animal, heaviest, smallest). Who actually earns those -ests…?

While opinions on all of these do vary, the deadliest snake (measured in human fatalities) may be the Saw-Scaled Viper. Cheetah’s are often cited as the fastest animal (clocked at 75mph). Heaviest is the Blue Whale (190 tons) while the heaviest on land is the African Elephant (a mere 7 tons or 14,000 pounds in comparison). The smallest animal (excluding insects and other invertebrates) is a frog from New Guinea which measures one-third of an inch from nose to butt.

Here’s a few others you might not know. The prize for being the most see-through animal goes to the Glass Frog. I found one when hiking Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park, which of course points out the distinction between invisible (no animals are quite that) and transparent (which several are). Seen from their undersides, the Glass Frog’s skin is entirely lacking in color, leaving the live and beating organs visible to the casual observer. The longest lived animal is a type of jellyfish (Turritopsis dohrnii) and that record is not one measured in years but of apparent immortality: when faced with a mortal threat (injury, starvation, illness) they can actually revert to an earlier stage of their life cycle and, well, start all over again. And the dubious distinction of smelliest animal does not go to Skunks but, instead, to the Zorrilla or Striped Weasel which gives off a reportedly unforgettable and many times more potent than skunk stink from their anal glands in self-defense.

Anymore -ests to discuss? Not to go all dark on you, but I suggest the weirdest animal is the one willing to put all of the above at risk. The great variety of life on Mother Earth is clearly dependent on us humans learning to live without destroying all of our homes!

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