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Hardest Working (and Laziest) Animals

September 2, 2010
by agoldste

In honor of Labor Day, here is a list of some of the hardest-working and laziest beasts in the animal kingdom. Some of them make us humans look like real slackers! Others may remind you of someone you know….

The Hard Workers

photo from Alex WildBugs haul the most weight. Proportionally, elephants are weaklings compared to insects. An elephant can only carry 25% of its own body weight, while ants are capable of lifting objects that weigh 10-50 times more than their body weight. The horned dung beetle wins, however, as it can pull 1,141 times its own body weight—equivalent to a person lifting six double-decker buses.

Rabbits “get the busiest.” Yes, reproductively. A mother rabbit’s gestation period lasts only about 30 days; litters range from 4-12 babies; and baby rabbits are viable in just 6-7 months. Thus, in one breeding season, a female rabbit can give birth to more than 30 kits and produce as many as 800 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Talk about an extended family!

Birds commute the farthest. And you thought your commute was long! The Arctic Tern, in particular, spends approximately 6 months a year “on the road,” making its 90-day 22,000-mile trip twice a year. In its 30-year lifetime, a tern will fly over 1.5 million miles—approximately the same distance as three round trips to the moon.

The Slackers

Koalas sleep the longest—22 hours a day, on average. You would, too, if you only ate 21-29 ounces of eucalyptus leaves a day. This amount of food provides them with as much energy as one serving of breakfast cereal.

Sloths rest the most. In addition to sleeping 18 hours a day, sloths move so slowly and infrequently that Brazilians call them “Bicho-preguiça” or “lazy animal.” They can sometimes appear grey-green in color (even though their coats are grayish-brown) because they move so slowly that algae will grow over their fur.

Hippos are the most “chill.” They spend up to 18 hours a day in the water relaxing and then get up at night just to gulp down 88 lbs of grass. However, perceptions can be dangerous: while a yawning hippo may seem tired and lazy, it’s actually angry and trying to scare you away by baring its teeth.

  • Read more about industrious animals in Animals at Work.
  • Look up animals in more detail on University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web.
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