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Biological extremes

General Sherman Tree from a distance
General Sherman Tree from a distance./ Joel Sowers, Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

WorldBlue Described biological extremes

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In the Bristlecone Pine Forest
In the Bristlecone Pine Forest – the forest with the oldest trees in the world./ Forest Service, USDA, Flickr / public domain

There are thousands upon thousands of wonders of living nature in the world – unique ecosystems, giant trees, and amazingly preserved fossils of fantastic creatures of Earth’s past.

Bot some biological wonders are the champions – largest, tallest, oldest. This category lists them.

WorldViolet Top 25 biological extremes



Russia, Krasnoyarsk Krai

The northernmost forest in the world. It consists of low stands of Dahurian larch (Larix gmelinii).

Balete tree in Maria Aurora (Millenium Tree)

Philippines, Aurora

Possible world’s stoutest tree – a balete (Ficus balete). The girth of the trunk might exceed 30 m – it is told that 60 adult men are needed to get their arms around the tree, although it is hard to measure the tree due to countless roots around it.

Balete tree in Maria Aurora, Philipppines
Balete tree in Maria Aurora / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Lukunsky grove

Russia, Krasnoyarsk Krai

The northernmost grove (e.g. a part of the forest) of trees in the world – a bit further than Ary-Mas. It consists of low stands of Dahurian larch (Larix gmelinii).

Menara – the world’s tallest tropical tree, Danum Valley

Malaysia, Sabah

The tallest known tree in the tropics and the tallest flowering plant in the world, a 100.8 m tall Shorea faguetiana.

Australia and Oceania

Elizabeth Reef

Coral Sea Islands Territory (Australia)

The southernmost atoll in the world, 8.2 by 5.5 km large, with a well-formed ring of dry land and an inner lagoon.

Flinders Ranges fossil find

Australia, South Australia

Remnants of a small, tadpole-like organism that lived some 560 or even 565 million years ago. This is a find of the first known vertebrate organisms on Earth.

King’s lomatia grove

Australia, Tasmania

The only location where grows King’s lomatia (Lomatia tasmanica) – a large shrub belonging to Proteaceae family. This is a clonal colony that is at least 43 600 years old and might be even 135 000 years old. Thus it is the oldest known plant in the world. Only some 400 – 500 plants remain in a 1.2 km long stretch.

Kure Atoll

United States, Hawaii, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

The northernmost coral atoll in the world. The only island – Green Island – is a habitat for hundreds of thousands of birds.

Albatros chicks in Kure Atoll
Albatros chicks in Kure Atoll. / Forest Starr and Kim Starr, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Wooramel Seagrass Bank

Australia, Western Australia

The largest seagrass grove in the world. It covers 1,030 square kilometers.

Yea Flora Fossil Site

Australia, Victoria

Site with 415 million years old (Silurian) fossils of ancient vascular land plants Baragwanathia. These are remnants of the oldest vascular plants in the world.

Fossil of Baragwanathia longifolia
Fossil of Baragwanathia longifolia. / Rodney Start, Museums Victoria, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0


Gorham’s Cave


This cave has an 18 m thick layer of sediments that contain very important finds including the latest find of Neanderthals who lived here 60 – 24 thousand years ago. This is the last known settlement of Neanderthals – another human species – in the world.

Entrance in Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar - the last refuge of Neanderthals
Entrance in Gorham’s Cave – the last refuge of Neanderthals / Gibmetal77, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0
Postojna-Planina Cave System

Slovenia, Inner Carniola

Approximately 25 km long cave system, recognized as the most biodiverse cave system in the world with 117 species of animals – mostly insects.

Stone curtain in Postojna cave, Slovenia
Stone curtain in Postojna cave / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Torridon fossil find

United Kingdom, Scotland, Highland

Remnants of microscopic organism – holozoan Bicellum brasieri that lived approximately 1 billion years ago. These are remnants of the oldest multicellular organism known to us.

North America

Cairo fossil forest

United States, New York

Fossils of the world’s oldest known forest from the middle Devonian (Givetian), some 385 million years old. In the site were found traces of the root system of Archaeopteris trees.

Árbol del Tule

Mexico, Oaxaca

One of the stoutest trees on Earth, the Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum). Girth 36.2 m, diameter 11.62 m, height 35.4 m.

Árbol del Tule. Girth - 36.2 m
Árbol del Tule. Girth – 36.2 m / Gengiskanhg, Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0
El Patriarca

Cuba, Matanzas

One of the largest and, most likely, the oldest cacti in the world. This Dendrocereus nudiflorus might be more than 500 years old.

El Patriarca Cactus in hotel Ocean Varadero
El Patriarca Cactus in hotel Ocean Varadero. / Intermedichbo – Dr Milorad Dimić, Serbia, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
General Sherman tree

United States, California

Giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), the largest tree in the world by volume. Volume 1,487 m3. Height 83.8 m, girth at the breast height 25.9 m. Believed to be 2,300 – 2,700 years old.

Giant Forest with General Sherman tree - the largest tree in the world in the center
Giant Forest with General Sherman tree – the largest tree in the world in the center. Note the people at the base of the tree. / Famartin, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Graphite of Saglek Block

Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador

Graphite that shows possible traces of microorganisms that may be lived 3.95 billion years ago. These are the oldest known traces of life on Earth.

Humongous Fungus in the Malheur National Forest

United States, Oregon

The largest single organism on Earth – a giant Armillaria ostoyae fungus, some 8650 years old and covering 965 hectares.

Hyperion tree

United States, California

The tallest announced tree in the world (there are known taller ones), coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). 115.85 m tall, diameter 4.84 m.

Hyperion, California
Hyperion / © Mario Vaden.

South America

Chihuidos titanosaur find

Argentina, Neuquén

Remnants of the largest creature ever – a titanosaur that lived some 95 million years ago.

Nevado Sajama queñua forests

Bolivia, Oruro

Stands of queñua (Polylepis tomentella) trees growing up to 5,000 m altitude. This might be the record altitude for trees.

Queñua woodlands on the north-western slopes of Nevado Sayama
Queñua woodlands on the north-western slopes of Nevado Sayama./ ch images, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0
The southernmost forest at Cape Horn

Chile, Magallanes and Antártica Chilena

World’s southernmost forest – a group of low, windswept trees: Nothofagus Antarctica, Nothofagus betuloides and Drimys winter.

Hornos Island with the southernmost forest. Monument of the Cape of Horn is seen in the left side.
Hornos Island with the southernmost forest (marked with red circle). Monument of the Cape of Horn is seen in the left side. / Nelson Hinds, Wikimedia Commons / public domain
Yasuni Forest

Ecuador, Pastaza and Orellana

Possibly the most biodiverse area in the world. In this rainforest, the diversity of reptiles, amphibians, freshwater fishes, birds, mammals, and vascular plants (with 2,700 – 4,000 species of plants per hectare) reaches their maximum for Western Hemisphere and often – the world. Uncontacted tribes live in the forest. Endangered and affected by oil extraction.

The mysterious Yasuni forest, Ecuador
The mysterious Yasuni forest / Ricardo Patiño, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Chile, Antofagasta

The driest place in the world without any signs of life. Only a few specific microorganisms – extremophiles – are present here. Some areas are rich with nitrates – easily soluble minerals that in other circumstances are consumed by organisms. Rich nitrate deposits have been formed there from atmospheric nitrogen, possibly by lightning.

Landscape near Antofagasta, not too far from Yungay, Chile
Landscape near Antofagasta, not too far from Yungay / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

WorldYellow Recommended books

The Story of Life in 25 Fossils: Tales of Intrepid Fossil Hunters and the Wonders of Evolution

Every fossil tells a story. Best-selling paleontology author Donald R. Prothero describes twenty-five famous, beautifully preserved fossils in a gripping scientific history of life on Earth. Recounting the adventures behind the discovery of these objects and fully interpreting their significance within the larger fossil record, Prothero creates a riveting history of life on our planet.

The Wonder Book of Plant Life

Fabre is one of the glories of the civilized world… one of the most profound admirations of my life. – Maurice Maeterlinck.

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