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Dushyant Mukkamala

Amazing Numbers: Species Data

February 24, 2011 —
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One often hears such phrases like “She’s as fast as a cheetah”, or “He is slow like a sloth”. And one often also stops to ponder, “Well, how fast IS a Cheetah?” or “How laboriously slow DOES a sloth actually move?”. Wolfram|Alpha now has a slew of interesting facts about the numerous species that co-inhabit planet Earth. We recently added an overall set of more than 400 new properties, which span the most interesting and intriguing features of different species within the animal and plant kingdoms.

For starters, we can compute how much faster a cheetah is than a three-toed sloth:

Cheetah running speed/three-toed sloth running speed

It’s a pretty remarkable fact that the cheetah could nap for almost 11 hours and still beat the sloth to the finish line in a 1-mile race.

Being human, we tend to anthropomorphize everything around us, so when we look up animal characteristics, we want to know the human equivalents or comparisons. We have thus added the corresponding human values for a number of properties that put into perspective how similar we are to or how different we are from some of the species in the animal kingdom.

For example, it can be disheartening to know that even the most average of pigs has a much more refined palette than the most trained human. An average pig has 15,000 taste buds as compared to the average human, which is 9,000.


All the same, said pig has only about 1/12 the brain we have to process all of that succulent sensory information. We can, on the other hand, also observe the similarity of some of the other pig organ dimensions to those in our own bodies: for example, liver weight.

While we are on the topic of human and animal comparisons, most of us think of tigers as large and heavy cats. How interesting is it then that the heaviest tiger ever recorded in history is ever so slightly over half the weight of the heaviest human ever recorded?

Tiger, human maximum recorded weight

Let’s look at some of the other interesting facts we have added. Did you know, for example, that a newborn baby bat (common pipistrelle) is almost 40% the weight of the mother giving birth to it?

Common pipistrelle relative birth weight

Or how about the fact that an opossum has 50 teeth?

How many teeth does an opossum have?

We have added new data covering a wide array of topics, such as general age, weight, and height characteristics; alimentation, digestion, metabolism, and excretion; internal organs; reproduction and development; and much more.

The variety and diversity of the biota of the world is endless, and there is an infinite amount of information out there that we can add. If you are an expert in this area and are interested in contributing to Wolfram|Alpha, you can learn more about becoming an expert volunteer curator by going to Wolfram|Alpha Volunteer Central.


This is a fantastic resource, but you all have got to find a way to add the land speed for tortoises and rabbits. It’s going to be a popular novelty search. More seriously, very interested in playing with the metabolism and developmental data you added.

Posted by Paul February 24, 2011 at 11:41 am

What about the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow!?

Posted by P. Ovidius Naso February 24, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Wolfram Alpha is such a wonderful resource that I cannot possibly ever stop admiring it. Its data interpretation is very accurate something which I greatly appreciate. No matter how complex the equation, you throw it at Wolfram and it gives the solution in seconds. And the best part is, its free! Just keep up the good work people. This definitely the best calculator I could ever have….

Posted by Shubham February 28, 2011 at 10:43 am