I’m pretty sure the first animal you think of when you hear the phrase “animals with long arms” is a monkey. They have oversized, wobbly long arms that are exceptionally strong and could make most gymnasts break down into a ball of tears at their sheer dexterity.
But monkeys aren’t the only ones with impressively long arms, nor are they the only animals who use their arms to pull themselves around.
Sure, I can tell myself I wanted to write this article to explore the scientific importance of animals with long arms, discuss in-depth the evolutionary processes that resulted in their arms being so long, and further delve into the behavioral patterns these animals exhibit as a result of the length of their arms.
But let’s be brutally honest for a second. I really wanted to write this article to laugh. To laugh at the absurd appearance of these animals’ freakish-looking arms, to laugh at the way they swing them around when they walk, and to laugh as a fresh bout of jealous tears falls down the cheeks of every gymnast, bodybuilder, and swimmer in a 100-mile radius.
I could tell myself I’m writing this article in the name of science, but I’m honestly just writing it in the name of blatant sadism.
Without boring you further, however, here is the master list of the 16 most unusual animals with long arms.
I bet you thought we were going to start this list with monkeys, but no! Sloths are by far the more interesting, long-armed creatures, and so they take the top spot on this list.
In a millennial culture where avocado toast is not only a breakfast food but an entire subculture, wouldn’t you be surprised to know that without sloths, there would be no avocados? And that even though they move as slowly as an 80-year old on a sidewalk, they are actually three times stronger than humans.
Read it and weep, CrossFit junkies. A sloth can do more pull-ups than you.
In fact, sloths have such long, dangly arms for a variety of reasons. First, they spend most of their time in the trees of South and Central America and need powerful arms to stop them from falling.
They even sleep hanging from the trees, so their muscles and tendons are hardwired to lock onto a branch and never let go. This is what allows them to hang out in trees without ever climbing to the ground. Some sloths can keep that up for the entire 30 years of their lives, which is crazy to think about, considering most humans can’t even hang from a metal pole for more than the two minutes required to win a massive teddy bear at the carnival.
So the term “monkey” is really broad and could concern a whole range of mammals that count as, well, monkeys. This means monkeys vary just as widely in characteristics and appearance. However, they share one similarity; the length of their arms. Those things have some serious arms on them, and it’s not hard to understand why.
I mean, they spend most of their time in trees, and if you’ve watched enough of Night in the Museum, you’ll know monkeys need such long arms for optimal slapping abilities.
However, the logical reason for the existence of long monkey arms always falls back to the amount they need to stretch to hop around from branch to branch as they do.
I sometimes also feel their arms are so long so they can better reach to pick fruit or, in the case of many monkeys near resorts or residential areas, to steal through windows.
And if you’re in search of the monkey with the longest arms around, Gibbon monkeys are your best bet.
Now, before you come at me with pitchforks, orangutans are not monkeys, and no, I’m not repeating myself. Orangutans are actually part of the great ape group of primates and are mostly native to Indonesia and Malaysia.
These hairy orange fellows are complex, intelligent creatures that use their arms for swinging around, picking fruit, and, well, looking incredibly cute while they do it.
And if you’ve ever seen a picture of an orangutan, you probably noticed their arms are much longer than their legs. It’s not surprising to discover then that many orangutans have no problem eating with their feet, especially if they’re up in a tree somewhere and can’t use their hands.
As much as we’d like to deny it, I’m pretty sure we all had our first encounter with a lemur while watching the animated film Madagascar. There was something just so charismatic, absurd, and entirely hilarious about King Julian that he remains, to this day, one of the best animated animals of all time.
But one thing we may not have noticed during those hours of sitting with our faces pressed against a screen is that real lemurs actually have really long arms.
Their arms probably grew to be so long for the same reason as monkeys and orangutans. These dangly little things are actually home to several scent glands that allow lemurs to leave their unique perfume all over the place, not dissimilar to the high school football players who refused to wear deodorant and left you smelling them before you saw them.
Ah yes, what would a list of animals with long arms be if it didn’t mention the majestic octopus? With a full eight, gloriously long tentacle-like arms, octopi take the cake for the sheer magnificence of their arms.
Octopi typically use one or two arms for securing and eating their prey. The other six arms are used to move them around the ocean and, even though they have six arms for movement instead of four, they still identify two to three “back legs” and often use them to push themselves over the seabed.
An octopus’ arms are so important, more than 60% of its brain matter is actually found in its arms, not its head. This makes it a little surprising to hear that many octopi will eat their arms when they’re bored; really driving home the fact that destroying or eating a part of your brain could really help you not feel like you need something to do to be happy.
Ah yes, squid. The squiggly, delicious counterpart of the humble octopus. Squids have exceptionally long arms and usually have quite a lot of them. Unlike octopi, squids have eight arms plus two tentacles. The former hold prey steady while the latter two are used to grab the unsuspecting lunch item.
Like many other animals with such prominent limbs, a squid’s arms will grow back if cut or damaged. It does make it seem rather sad that these powerful animals are a regular feature on most seafood restaurant menus.
At the risk of sounding redundant, I conclude my three-point sea animal bender with the jellyfish. Possibly the most graceful of sea animals, jellyfishes spend their days floating about and often stinging whoever they encounter.
This is where jellyfish arms come into play, as their arms are the ones responsible for stinging people, even though that isn’t their main purpose.
Most jellyfish stings contain enough venom to kill their prey, after which they are sucked into the jelly’s mouth and consumed.
Alright, I know whales don’t exactly have arms, but surely fins count as arms too, and I couldn’t leave this list without at least one reason to make competitive swimmers feel inadequate.
The word “whale” can refer to a lot of different marine mammals, and these creatures usually have four fins. The only ones we need to concern ourselves with are the pectoral fins or their replacement for arms.
These fins don’t actually help the whale move forward. Instead, they act as a rudder to keep the whales steady and balanced while the caudal fin is responsible for all the propulsion.
Even with only one fin to push them forward, whales can still outswim most professional swimmers with their full four limbs being used to propel themselves forward.
Here we will talk about the second most popular frog limb: arms. Unlike their legs, frog arms are not seen as a delicacy in most of the world and are relatively safe from being thrown into a creamy garlic sauce and served on an a la carte menu.
Like other names on this list, frogs can refer to a whole range of different subspecies, although they are all amphibians and look a little the same.
In most cases, a frog’s arms are there mostly for decoration since their back legs do most of the hopping. However, these long arms are handy when it comes to climbing up surfaces like walls or plants and could help support their bodies when they jump or walk by absorbing some of the impact that would’ve been placed on their legs otherwise.
Alright, I know we may be stretching the brief here by listing kangaroos as having long arms, but technically they do, especially considering they don’t use those arms for much at all.
Kangaroos are not only an Australian icon but their arms are mostly built for fighting, making them the most macho animals in the southern hemisphere. Male kangaroos have giant arm bones and beefy, muscled limbs, which are perfect for when they’re in a boxing match with another male kangaroo, be it over a mate, territory, or even just because they looked at each other wrong.
Sure, there’s an argument that bats don’t have arms, they have wings, but scientifically, bat wings are described as two thin layers of skin stretched over the bat’s arms.
In fact, many evolutionists believe that bat arms adapted to form wings over time, making them the only mammals capable of genuinely flying. One of the reasons bats can fly so well is because of their arms, which are connected to powerful chest muscles enabling their wings to flap at the speed and power necessary to keep them airborne.
12. Praying Mantis
As one of my favorite points on this list, praying mantises deserve more recognition for their devilishly long arms. I’m sure when you hear the name praying mantis, your mind immediately jumps to the little green fellows we see on TV so often, but the name mantis could actually refer to more than 2,400 different species of insects.
And if you think a mantis’ arms look dangly and weak, you’re sorely mistaken. In fact, mantis arms are powerful enough to keep their prey securely fastened until they are ready to feat on their freshly caught meal.
13. Star Fish
Starfish, also known as sea stars, are famous for their long arms arranged in the shape of a star. However, not all starfish look like the pretty little stars we are accustomed to expecting. In fact, some starfish have such incredibly long arms you may not recognize them as starfish at all.
And even though most starfish have around five arms, some, like the Antarctic Labidiaster, can have more than 50 arms in total. Just calling starfish limbs arms may be an understatement, though, as these ‘arms’ are vital for movement and could even support the animal’s vision.
It’s a good thing, then. That starfish can grow back their arms if they ever lose one or more.
14. Yeti Crab
The yeti crab or Kiwa hirsuta is a crustacean that earns an honorable mention on this list simply for its overall bizarre appearance made even weirder by the existence of its long, hairy arms that end in gigantic pinchers.
The yeti crab is a relatively new species, having only been discovered in 2006 in the South Pacific Ocean. Still, it is pretty much an unmistakable sea creature as its very blond, bushy arm hair is almost impossible to miss.
Their hairy arms are useful for more than just looking like a yeti, though, and it is believed these crabs regulate their body’s ecosystem by collecting the toxins they release in the bushy hairs of their arms.
Whatever the reason for these wacky-looking limbs, I am sure there are no waxing salons deep in the South Pacific ocean, so, for now, these little yetis get a pass on their personal grooming practices.
15. Sea Lions
Ah yes, another stretch on the word “arms” over here. Sea lions may not have traditional limbs like those of other animals listed above, but they certainly do have extremely long flippers that very much resemble arms.
In fact, these flippers so resemble arms they actually have nails on the ‘fingers’ of their hind flippers. However, their extra-long arms are their most important assets as they are used to propel them powerfully through the ocean and put legends like Michael Phelps to shame.
You may be an amazing swimmer, but, indeed, you could never beat a sea lion in a race as long as the stakes are fish or food of some kind.
And our final entry, gorillas, was essential to mention since the movie Tarzan made us all wonder if humans really could become strong enough to swing from vines and branches like they do in the film.
Gorillas are native to sub-Saharan Africa and, like orangutans, are part of the great ape group. They certainly fit the bill of being ‘great’ in more ways than one, as their size, power, and general macho-ness are heralded far and wide.
Like orangutans, gorillas’ arms are far longer than their legs, which could indicate they were once tree-dwellers. Today, however, most gorillas live on land and only take to the trees whenever a movie needs a little bit of majestic action.