First thing in the morning, when the sun has barely peeked over the horizon and you’re snuggled under the covers, the loudest animal in the world is probably your cat yowling or your dog begging for breakfast. We don’t argue that.
However, scientists have actually measured the sounds made by animals in the wild, and they too are very, very loud. Maybe even louder than your pets first thing in the morning, but probably not. However, we’re just saying that there are animals that can create sounds so loud they could burst our human eardrums. Not even your cat can do that, though she may try.
Here are five of the loudest animals on Earth, as measured by science.
1. Tiger Pistol Shrimp
Pow-pow! This little Mediterranean shrimp doesn’t make sounds with its mouth, or even technically with its body. It uses its huge claw to shoot jets of water with such force that it creates an air bubble. When this bubble implodes, it generates a shockwave that’s been measured at more than 200 decibels. This shockwave can kill other shrimp as far as 6.5 feet (2 meters) away, and it creates a flash of light as hot as the sun. For reference, the threshold for human pain — where pure sound causes most people to feel pain in their ears — is 120 decibels. Human eardrums will rupture at 160 decibels. That’s some shrimp!
2. Blue Whale
This loudest animal on Earth is also the largest animal on Earth. The blue whale’s call can reach 188 decibels. We share the planet with blue whales and pistol shrimp, so how do we even have eardrums if these animals are so loud? We’re protected by the fact that these creatures live underwater and we do not. If we did live in the sea, we’d be able to hear the song of the blue whale as far as 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) away.
3. Greater Bulldog Bat
The greater bulldog bat, which is native to the Caribbean, uses echolocation to find food, like all bats. But instead of the more typical insects, these bats feed on fish. That means they need to emit a sound that can penetrate both air, where they fly, and water, where their food swims. Their echolocations can reach 140 decibels. But we humans get lucky again in sharing the world with these bats, since these exceptionally loud sounds are ultrasonic, meaning they’re outside the range of human hearing.
Our next loudest animal is also the loudest bird, the kakapo. This New Zealand native’s mating call can be as loud as 132 decibels. The nocturnal and flightless kakapo holds a couple of other records, too. It’s the heaviest parrot species in the world, at 4.85 pounds (2.2 kilograms) for the males. And it’s the longest-lived bird — they’re known to reach their 90th birthday.
Two species of this bug—the greengrocer cicada and the yellow Monday cicada—are the loudest known insects. The males of both species can produce sounds up to 120 decibels. It can sound like cicadas are screaming their lungs out at absolutely everything (aren’t we all?), but actually they are vibrating the drum-like exoskeleton of their abdomen. Their tummy calls are species-specific so they don’t attract females they can’t mate with.