11 Slowest Animals In The World — From Snails To Tortoises

We are very familiar with the world's fastest animals. We know about the cheetah, peregrine falcon, golden eagle, and American quarter horse. But have you ever wondered about the slowest animals in the world? 

There are creatures in the world that move very slowly. Aside from the common ones like sloths and snails, these animals even include the most interesting underwater creatures like the sea cow, sea anemones, and starfish. This article also explores other slow animals like the slow loris, giant tortoises, and others. 

Slowest Animals In The World

1. Giant Galapagos Tortoise (Chelonoidis niger)

tortoise walking
Photo by Marcus Dietachmair on Unsplash.

The Giant Galapagos Tortoise is the largest living tortoise species, with a lifespan of over 100 years. The giant tortoise is one invertebrate with the longest life span. It can live up to 177 years in captivity. Up to 14 giant tortoise subspecies are native to the island of Galapagos, North America.  

A giant tortoise spends 16 hours out of 24 hours resting. They spend most of their waking hours foraging for grasses and fruits. The giant tortoise species is one of the slowest animals in the world5. It moves at the slow speed of 0.52 ft/s (0.16 m/s). Giant Galapagos Tortoises are animals that live simple lives. They can even go without eating for up to a year.

Charles Darwin discovered and gave a detailed observation note of the gentle giant in 1835. A single tortoise can weigh as much as 880 lb (400 kg). A Giant Galapagos Tortoise made it into the Guinness World Records in 2015. Dubbed with the name Goliath, he was the largest tortoise, weighing 919 lb (417 kg).

Related Read: Tortoise Facts.

2. Banana Slug (Ariolimax)

banana slug slowest animal in the world
Photo by Jens-Christian Svenning on iNaturalist licensed under CC BY 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The banana slug is a common name for eight slug species living in damp and temperate forests. As you can already guess, banana slugs got their name from their physical attributes. They look like banana fruit. Their colors often match bananas in different life cycle stages, but they mostly have a bright yellow shade, like a ripe banana.

These creatures are the second-largest slug in the world and the largest slug in North America. A large banana slug can grow up to 10 inches (25.4 cm) long and weigh 4 oz (113.4 g). They have four tentacles extended from their heads, and all tentacles can move independently. Also, they secrete slim that helps them with a lot of activities. 

At a top speed of 7.56 in/min (19.2 cm/min), banana slugs can transport themselves in their habitat to eat almost anything3. They can eat animal droppings, fresh or dead plant material, mushrooms, and carrion.

3. Slow Loris (Nycticebus)

slow loris slowest primate
Photo by Wich'yanan L on iNaturalist licensed under CC BY 4.0 (Cropped from original).

Next on our list of the slowest animals in the animal kingdom are slow lorises1. Slow lorises are endangered primates that grow up to 9.8 inches (25 cm) long. They have large brown eyes to see when they hunt for food at night. You will find them in evergreen forests, hanging on a tree branch. They prefer staying at least 10 ft (3 m) off the ground. 

Slow lorises move at a top speed of 0.5 mph (0.8 kph). However, this venomous primate can move fast if it is trying to avoid predators. The venom comes from the brachial glands in their upper arms. It also becomes more dangerous when they mix it with the enzyme of their saliva4.

A bite from a slow loris is very painful. It could also lead to allergic reactions, and their wounds don't heal as fast as they would. They use their venom to groom themselves to keep flies and parasites away. 

4. Garden Snail (Cornu aspersum)

garden snail on a leaf
Photo by João Costa on Unsplash.

Garden snails, or European brown garden snails, are terrestrial gastropod mollusks. These species of land snails are native to Europe. They are nocturnal animals; they spend their days in their litter shells and nights. 

A common garden snail has a sphere-shaped shell with a maximum of 5 spirals. The shells are brown and have a rough texture, with a maximum diameter of 1.57 in (4 cm). It also has a flat, muscular foot that helps it move around. Its secretion of mucus improved the snail’s movement. The mucus reduces friction on the surface snails move on. 

Land snails are one of the slowest animals in the world, with garden snails at the top of the list. They move at a painful top speed of 0.5 in/s (1.27 cm/s). They feed on tree bark, herbs, fruits, and decomposing organic matter at night. Most regions consider these snail species pests because they constantly feed on crops. 

Related Read: Snail Facts.

5. Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus)

slowest animal in the world sloth hanging
Photo by minkewink on Pixabay.

Three-toed sloths are famous for their sluggish pace. They are native to the rainforests of Central and South Africa. The three-toed sloth is the slowest animal in the world, covering only 120 ft/day (36.58 m/day). It moves extremely slowly, causing algae to grow on its fur. They use the algae to deter predators because it doubles as camouflage. Sloths have an incredibly low metabolic rate.

Their slow metabolism means they are always tired, so sloths use most of their energy to hang from trees. They spend over 15 hours sleeping in a day. They do everything in trees, from sleeping to mating activities. Their short shoulder blades and long claws help them hang on to the trees. Even awake, they do not move around or participate in energy-draining activities.

Given that a three-toed sloth is a slow animal, it is surprising to discover they have excellent swimming skills. They have very long arms that help them move in the water swiftly. That’s why you often find a sloth dropping from its tree habitat into a river. A unique fact about sloths is their ability to turn their heads 270 degrees. This is possible because they have extra neck vertebrae, unlike other mammals.

Related Read: Sloth Facts.

6. Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

koala growl
Photo by Pascal Mauerhofer on Unsplash.

Koala bears are not bears but marsupials, relatives to wombats. They are solitary animals living in forest and woodland communities but can move to a place with abundant food. The abundance of food available defines their habitat. Koalas develop excellent hearing skills because they have poor vision. Their hearing helps detect the danger and food sources. 

Adult koalas can weigh between 11 and 26.46 lb (5-12 kg), depending on their area of origin. Koalas from Queen's Land weigh 11-13.23 lb (5-6 kg), while the ones from Victoria weigh 18.74-26.46 lb (8.5-12 kg). As an arboreal creatures, they can move at a top speed of 6.21 mph (10 kph) using the locomotion strategies of a marsupial and a primate2.

Koala bears feed on many eucalypt leaves, brush boxes, paperback, and bloodwood trees. Like other slow animals, they sleep for about 40 hours daily. Koalas can digest the toxic leaves they consume because they have a unique digestive system. However, they primarily consume low-energy foods - that, combined with an extremely slow metabolic rate that results in them conserving energy, make them move slowly.

Related Read: Koala Facts.

7. Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum)

gila monster
Photo by Arpingstone on Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

The Gila monster is one of the slowest animals in the world. It is a venomous lizard native to Arizona, California, and Mexico. It is the largest lizard in the United States, with a length of 22 in (56 cm). The lizard has large, grooved teeth in its lower jaw. Gila monsters use venom by using their powerful jaws to bite the capillary areas of their victims. They are as strong as the western diamondback rattlesnake. 

These sluggish lizards can live for over 20 years. They are active both day and night but are most active in the morning. The lizards like to spend time underground. They only come out during the spring period. Their maximum speed is 1.5 mph ( 2.41 kph).

8. Sea Anemone (Actiniaria)

sea anemone
Photo by AliceKeyStudio on Pixabay.

Sea anemones belong to the same family as jellyfish, corals, and sea pens. You can find them in all oceans, from the shores to a depth of 32,800 ft (10,000 m). Their size ranges from 0.39 in (1 cm) to 6.6 ft (2 m). Sea anemones attach themselves to rocks, coral reefs, or any hard surface they can find. 

A sea anemone is the slowest animal in the sea. It moves at the speed of 4 in/hr (10.16 cm/hr). Larger anemones can move up to 10 in/hr (25.4 cm/hr). Researchers could capture their movements using time-lapse photography. A sea anemone moves with its lone foot, known as the pedal disc.

9. Starfish (Asteroidea)

Photo by Clara Cordero on Unsplash.

A starfish is an interesting underwater creature, also referred to as sea stars. Most people often confuse starfish with other fish species, but starfish are not fish. They don't have gills, scales, or fins. They are echinoderms like sea urchins and sea cucumbers. Some starfishes have over five arms.

They move around underwater by using their wiggly tube feet. Their tiny feet are on the underside of their body. A starfish can move at the speed of 3.28 ft/min (1 m/min). Apart from movement, starfish grasp surfaces and food with their tiny feet. A starfish has self-regenerative abilities. It can regrow its missing limbs.

Related Read: Starfish Facts.

10. Manatee (Trichechus)

manatee
Photo by NOAA on Unsplash.

Manatees, often known as 'sea cows,' are large, gentle creatures that inhabit the warm coastal waters and rivers of the Americas and West Africa. These aquatic mammals are notable for their slow movement, often moving at an average speed of just 5 miles per hour.

Their speed, or lack thereof, can be attributed to their diet of seagrasses and other aquatic plants. This low-energy diet and their lack of natural predators mean they've adapted to a laid-back life in their watery habitats.

Interestingly, adult manatees sleep underwater, surfacing for air every 20 minutes or so without even waking up. This unique behavior further highlights their slow-paced lifestyle. Despite their lack of speed, manatees prove that life in the slow lane can be just as interesting, securing their place among the world's slowest animals.

11. Seahorse (genus Hippocampus)

seahorse
Photo by Michal B. on Unsplash.

Seahorses, known for their distinct horse-like heads and prehensile tails, reside in shallow tropical and temperate waters around the globe. These unique creatures move remarkably slowly due to their small dorsal fins and specialized body structure.

In fact, seahorses are the slowest-moving fish on the planet, with a top speed of just 0.01 mph. Instead of speed, they rely on their slow, stealthy movement to blend in with underwater plants and evade predators. While not fast, this strategy proves effective for their survival in their vibrant underwater habitats.

Related read: Seahorse facts.

Conclusion

From the sloth's languid crawl to the seahorse's glacial pace, these creatures remind us that speed isn't the only measure of success in the natural world. Slow movement can be a survival strategy, a method of evasion, or even a way to conserve energy.

We've also seen that 'slow' can be measured in many ways. Whether it's the distance covered over time, the rate of metabolic processes, or even the speed at which an animal completes its life cycle, these varied metrics give us a broader understanding of what it means to be 'slow.' In the end, these creatures' deliberate pace and the unique adaptations of other animals offer us valuable lessons about diversity, survival, and the many different rhythms of life on Earth.

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1

Nekaris, K. a. I., Pambudi, J., Susanto, D., Ahmad, R., & Nijman, V. (2014). Densities, distribution and detectability of a small nocturnal primate (Javan slow loris Nycticebus javanicus) in a montane rainforest. Endangered Species Research, 24(2), 95–103.

2

Gaschk, J. L., Frere, C., & Clemente, C. J. (2019). Quantifying koala locomotion strategies: implications for the evolution of arborealism in marsupials. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 222(24).

3

Pearson, A. K., Pearson, O. P., & Ralph, P. L. (2006). Growth and activity patterns in a backyard population of the banana slug, Ariolimax columbianus. Veliger, 48, 143–150.

4

Nekaris, K. A., Moore, R. W., Rode, E. J., & Fry, B. G. (2013b). Mad, bad and dangerous to know: the biochemistry, ecology and evolution of slow loris venom. Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins Including Tropical Diseases, 19(1), 21.

5

Zani, P. A., Gottschall, J. S., & Kram, R. (2005). Giant Galápagos tortoises walk without inverted pendulum mechanical-energy exchange. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 208(8), 1489–1494.

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