By Alexa, age 12
What is the biggest organism? You might say “That’s easy, the Blue Whale,” but is that really the biggest organism?
Well, you might notice 2 things. First of all, I said biggest organism. That includes all living things. Also, if it was that simple, then I would’ve titled this article “The Blue Whale”.
So, what is the biggest organism? It depends on your definition, especially how you define the biggest. Is it what has the greatest mass or what spans the most area? If it’s by mass, do you mean dry mass or just regular mass? Do you want biggest animal, plant, or organism? Or do you want the tallest organism? Past or present?
There are so many ways to define the biggest that I am making a biggest organism series. In this article, I’m going to cover the biggest organism by dry mass: Pando.
Pando isn’t a panda. It’s a tree… I guess. It is one organism with one interconnected root system. It covers 106 acres with approximately 40,000 trunks and weighs nearly 6,000 metric tons.
If you see Pando, it will just look like a bunch of aspen trees. When I saw it, I couldn’t tell it was one interconnected organism except I learned that it was from watching a Minute Earth video and knew where it was located.
Pando is at Fishlake National Forest in Richfield, Utah. If you ever go see Pando, you might notice that not all of the trees are identical. This is even more confusing, because it makes it even more like a regular aspen forest.
The “forest” behaves like one organism, because, well, it is one organism. Trees with plenty will give to trees in need (I’m just calling them trees because that’s what they look like, but remember it is a single living organism). It also transitions seasons simultaneously. The only promblem is that because it’s interconnected (through the roots), if one tree gets a fatal virus or disease, it could wipe out a large swath of Pando.
If you’re wondering why it’s only a swath rather than the entire thing, it’s because over time, some roots have become severed and thus becomes a separate tree. We can still tell that it’s one organism through DNA tests.
So, if you ever go to Utah, you might want to check Pando out. Don’t be disappointed that it just looks like an aspen forest, remember that you’re looking at one of the largest organisms on Earth!