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.
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 species of these giant tortoises 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.
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 in (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.
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 in (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.
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 part 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.
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.
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 11-26.46 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 creature, 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- making them move slowly.
Related Read: Koala Facts.
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).
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.
A starfish is an interesting underwater creature, also referred to as a sea star. 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.
Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.