What's the Loudest Animal in the World?
There are many obnoxiously loud sounds in this world. Upstairs neighbors, for example. The Amazon delivery person when your newborn is trying to sleep. Dogs. Mother-in-laws.
If you lived next door to a blue whale, however, your eardrums would no longer work. Even two screaming in-laws will never be loud enough to compete with the loudest animals in the world, so be glad you don't live near these.
Max decibels: 112 dB
Hyenas are known for their laugh-like cackle, but these four-legged fiends can be incredibly loud if they feel threatened. Even if their vocalizations sound like high-pitched laughs, it usually means they're scared.
Interestingly, the petite predators are tougher than they look. A large pack of them can win a fight against a grown lion. The cool part? Hyena packs are usually led by females. Down with the patriarchy, up with annoyingly loud, opportunistic wildcats.
13. Lion (Tie)
Max decibels: 114 dB
The MGM lion's roar is loud, but it would be ear-splitting in person.
A lion roar is loud enough to hear from about 5 miles away thanks to the structure of their vocal cords, which allows them to produce high-frequency sounds with minimal lung pressure.
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13. Hippopotamus (Tie)
Max decibels: 114 dB
Comparable to the volume of a lion's roar is the groan that hippos make when they're about to charge an opponent. It can't really be described as a roar, but it's just as loud and just as terrifying. Hippos are responsible for 500 human fatalities in Africa each year, while lions only average 22. This is partly because lion territory is further removed from humans than that of hippo territories, but still.
If you have to choose between a close encounter with a lion or a hippo, a lion might be a safer bet. Either way, you'll be in for an ear-splitting headache if one of them decides to start a round of karaoke.
12. Gray Wolf
Max decibels: 115 dB
Gray wolves can produce not one but four different sounds: whimpers, growls, barks and howls. Much like dogs, they use these sounds to communicate. Howls are the loudest, and howling has nothing to do with the moon.
Each wolf has a unique howl that can be heard by other wolves up to 7 miles away. This can serve to assert territorial dominance, call others to join a hunt or help a lost wolf find their way back to the pack.
11. African Elephant
Max decibels: 117 dB
African elephants have large vocal cords, large trunks and a correspondingly loud trumpet. Trumpeting can be used to express several emotions, but it's usually reserved for intense ones, like excitement, pain or aggression.
They have a number of smaller snorts and squeaks they use for communication, but trumpeting is the loudest. Baby elephants sometimes use it when they're happy or to call out for their mother if they're lost.
10. North American Bullfrog
Max decibels: 119 dB
You wouldn't think a small frog could produce a sound louder than that of a 5-ton elephant, but the North American bullfrog can. Usually, bullfrogs croak with their mouth closed, but when they're feeling threatened, they open them to release a high-pitched croak that borders on a scream.
We wouldn't try to eat a bullfrog in the first place, but we'll definitely pass now.
9. Green Grocer Cicadas
Max decibels: 120 dB
If you've ever visited a desert environment, you've probably heard cicadas before. Their call is obnoxiously loud, with males producing sounds up to 120 decibels. Male cicadas must be extroverts because the louder their calls, the more they attract females.
The green grocer cicada is the loudest of them all, contracting its stomach muscles rapidly to produce a deafening sound. In the eastern part of the U.S. in 2021, hundreds of cicadas woke up from a 17-year hibernation, only to immediately begin screaming. We'd move.
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8. Northern Elephant Seal
Max decibels: 126 dB
Elephant seals aren't going to win a beauty contest anytime soon, but they just might win a screaming contest. Elephant seals are one of the loudest animals on Earth, using loud bellows and grunts to communicate with their offspring. Underwater, the sounds aren't that loud. On land, they're deafening.
Males also use loud roars to mark their territory, scaring off other males by sheer size, volume and obnoxiousness. Sounds like the shady dive bar of the sea if you ask us.
7. Moluccan Cockatoo
Max decibels: 129 dB
What can fly and produces a sound loud enough to cause immediate hearing damage? Two things: A 747 jet engine and a Moluccan cockatoo. Also known as the salmon-crested cockatoo, these feathery friends can pack a powerful squawk when they want to.
Most of the time, they whistle and chirp to communicate. They can also hiss when they're feeling threatened, and they can even learn to talk and sing around their favorite humans. When they're really upset, however, they let out a jarring screech to make predators think twice about trying to snack on them.
Max decibels: 132 dB
The kakapo is the largest and rarest parrot in the world. It's a flightless bird from New Zealand that's on the verge of extinction thanks to its unusual breeding patterns. They take several years to mature and don't reproduce as often as most other bird species, so recovery efforts are challenging.
If you do spot a kakapo, you're likely to hear quieter "booming" and "chinging" sounds that they use to communicate than anything painfully loud. When males and females get together, however, they might make a shrill song together that can reach sounds of up to 132 decibels.
5. Greater Bulldog Bat
Max decibels: 137 dB
Bats are usually considered quiet animals, but the greater bulldog bat's screech is louder than any bulldog's bark. A bulldog bat can screech louder than the sound of a live rock concert, which is around 110 decibels.
Other bats can be loud as well, but many of their vocalizations are too high-pitched to hear.
4. Howler Monkey
Max decibels: 140 dB
Howler monkeys take the cake as the loudest animals on land. They open their mouths and make a loud whooping call, amplified by a modified bone in their throat. Howler monkeys usually live in groups of six to 15, and the loud call is used to alert members of nearby threats. It can also be used to call juveniles, attract mates or frighten off competitors.
Regardless of the motive, howler monkey calls are loud enough to scare off anyone who'd like to keep their hearing. Each whooping hoot is loud enough to hear from 3 miles away or more.
3. Blue Whale
Max decibels: 180 dB
Blue whales are the largest animals on Earth, and they have a large sound to match. They can reach 80 feet in length, 200 tons in weight, and their hearts alone are the size of a car. Blue whales produce loud, low-pitched sounds that are usually in the 15- to 40-hertz range.
They use their calls to communicate long-distance and even to map out their surroundings by estimating the timing of the echoes of their calls. Sound travels faster in water than in air, so they can estimate the distance to geographical features, or even other whales, with relative ease. Human sonar equipment is basically modeled after whale echolocation, so their loud sounds aren't for nothing.
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2. Mantis Shrimp
Max decibels: 200 dB
You wouldn't think a tiny shrimp could be loud, but the mantis shrimp defies all expectations. Just look at it. There's nothing quiet about it, from its outlandish colors to its aggressive tendencies.
Mantis shrimp release a head-splitting pop of sound to startle prey — and then catch them. They can also produce a flash of light to distract prey or punch them as quickly as a flying bullet. So much rage in such a tiny package.
1. Sperm Whale
Max decibels: 233 dB
The blue whale might be the largest animal in the world, but the sperm whale is the loudest. Its sound is more of a click than a call, produced by traveling through a series of air sacs in the whale's body. From the surface of the water, it sounds like a heavy thud. From up close, the vibrations would be enough to vibrate a human to death.
For context, eardrums can rupture with exposure to 150 decibels. While 230 isn't as powerful in water as on land, even reduced to a more tolerable 174 decibels, a diver would be seriously injured by a loud click up close.