## Thursday, January 20, 2011

### How do you measure size? Large Organisms

When measuring, we tend to use different forms of measurement for living things than we do for inanimate objects. We discuss this in our Excel Math curriculum as we introduce kids to various units of measure.

Yesterday we talked about large organizations - using as our basis of comparison the number of people working there. The top 14 organizations I found have an average of a million employees.

Just as you might choose market capitalization, profit, revenue, units sold, number of outlets, or other measures for comparing companies, you can choose from a variety of measures to determine size of a living organism.

Today we ask the question, What are the largest living organisms?

With a tree, you might choose the
tallest (Hyperion redwood)
greatest circumference of branches (ficus / banyan trees)
number of years that it has been living (Methuselah Bristlecone Pine)
size and number of connected off-shoots (Utah's Pando Grove)
or volume and mass (General Sherman Redwood).

With an animal you might decide to compare on the basis of weight (elephant), height (giraffe), length (whale), number of limbs (millipede can have up to 750!), mass (whale record is 190 tons) or total body volume.

This week I saw a 13,000 lb. male elephant at the San Diego Zoo. His tusks weigh more than 120 pounds each. They had to trim the tusks recently because they were crossing in the front and almost touched the ground. Each trimmed off piece weighed about 25 pounds!

A fungus (neither plant or animal) may be a colony composed of millions of individual mushrooms (flowering parts) which are what we see above ground. In Oregon there's a fungus that may stretch for 2200 acres. A similar description of "colony" could apply to the Great Barrier (coral) Reef near Australia, and Neptune grass in the Mediterranean.

Go here if you want to read more on large organisms.

Go here if you want to watch the San Diego Zoo elephant camera.

Go here if you want to climb up a tree that's 379 feet tall.