Top 10 Animals That Can Survive Without Food
Have you ever wondered how long that spider that constantly weaves a web around one of the external mirrors on your car can go without food, given that you regularly remove the web? What about animals in droughts or areas that get covered in snow in winter?
It appears that going without food is not that uncommon out there in natureland. We eat regularly because we have to and we can, but not all animals have it so easy.
Time without food: 40 days
The camel has a great capacity to survive for long periods without food or water. In fact they can live longer without water than without food.
Part of the reason for this is the large amount of water they store in their hump. No, it’s not all water; it’s fatty tissue. When there is no food or water around the fat in the hump is metabolized and water is released as a part of this process. In fact the amount of water released into the body is about the same as the amount of fat burned.
The fat is stored in a hump rather than evenly spread over the body so the fat doesn’t act as insulation and keep the body warm. While metabolizing the fat releases water and energy, there are still nutrients the camel needs to survive.
Naomi has some interesting facts on Camels:
9. Homo Sapien
Time without food: 116 days
There are numerous cases of humans going for extended periods without eating. In some cases it has even extended beyond weeks into months.
The longest recorded case was Bhagat Singh who was a significant figure in the revolutionary movement that led to India’s independence from Britain in 1947.
1929 Singh led a hunger strike while he was in prison for murder, demanding better conditions for the Indian inmates. His hunger strike lasted for 116 days, only ending it after receiving concessions from the government and urgings from his father. He had lost 60 kg’s (133 pounds) but showed that the human body is capable of surviving an incredible amount of time without food.
Here’s a slightly controversial view on Singh’s life and his influence on Gandhi:
Time without food: 117 days
Unlike most of the other animals on our list the dog is a mammal and has to maintain a certain body temperature to remain alive. The dog’s metabolism acts to maintain the body temperature in times when the external environment is colder than the minimum temperature the dog needs. It therefore needs to eat to fuel its metabolism.
However there are cases of dogs living for exceptionally long periods without eating food. Dogs, and their wild relatives such as wolves, dingos and coyotes, have a strong survival mechanism that allows them to endure extreme conditions and survive.
There are a number of cases where dogs have been known to survive for weeks and one case where a dog went for almost three months without food.
After nearly two years a dog and her owner were reunited. Nice.
7. Emperor Penguin
Time without food: 120 days
The male emperor penguin gets the dubious honor of staying with the couple’s sole egg for the winter while the female goes and finds herself some food. During this period of incubation the male, who shelters the egg with his feet, doesn’t eat or drink.
Luckily for the male he can store large amounts of energy in his substantial body fat to keep his metabolism going for warmth. He loses up to half his body weight doing this.
But wait, that’s not all. When the female returns and the male can go and get some food he has to walk up to 120 km’s (75 miles) to get to the sea. That’s no small walk for any creature, much less one that has to waddle on its short little legs.
Here’s the great David Attenborough running us through these incredible animals:
Time without food: 1 year
Like other reptiles, snakes cannot regulate their body temperature. When they get cold their body temperature lowers and, when it’s cold enough, they go into a state of dormancy. Unlike hibernation where the animal actually goes to sleep, snakes remain awake and they are said to ‘brumate’.
Snakes will normally find a burrow or somewhere in the dirt to brumate as the dirt protects them from the worst of the cold they are sheltering from. The snakes metabolic rate in this dormant state is so low that they are able to live for long periods by surviving on the stored energy in their bodies.
It’s a bit gruesome. The python really does eat the alligator.
Time without food: 16 months
Frogs have the ability to ‘breath’ through their skins and can survive under conditions that allow this as the only way of getting oxygen into their body. Carbon dioxide and water can also pass through their skin. This is the reason frogs have to keep their skins moist.
Frogs can hibernate, or go into a dormant state that uses so little energy they can stay that way for months. This is an adaptation to their environment such as during droughts or when snow covers the landscape. In fact some species of frog allow themselves to freeze. Their internal organs are protected by high levels of glucose and when the temperature rises their heart starts again and off they go like nothing had happened.
Frozen wood frogs. That’s a bit nicer. Very cute.
Time without food: 18 months
Spiders have an exceptionally low metabolism in comparison to other creatures. One study has put it as much as half that of comparably sized creatures. This fits with the potentially sporadic nature of their food sources and, for many spiders, spending long periods of time totally inactive.
The Rabbit Hutch spider (Steatoda bipunctata), which is found throughout North America and Europe, has been kept in captivity for 18 months without water or food and did not show any signs of distress.
Whatever way you look at it, the words ‘spider’ and ‘eating’ lead to some yukkiness.
Time without food: 3 years
Crocodiles are ancient reptiles that regularly go for long periods without food. As crocodiles rely solely on the external temperature to regulate their internal body temperature (aside from panting or moving between sunshine and shade), they don’t require food to maintain a metabolism that maintains body temperature. They become more active in hot months and less active in the cooler months.
Crocodiles are very efficient at storing energy in their bodies and are capable of eating large meals. This, and their ability reduce remain motionless for long periods means they can go without food for as long as three years.
Crocs are making a comeback in southern Florida. Take care on the Keys.
Time without food: 4 years
Lungfish are not dissimilar to the Ohm at the top of this list. They can breathe air and have fins at the front of their bodies that were probably once legs. They are also predatory fish eating frogs, snails and even other small fish. Lungfish are sometimes known as salamanders and are found in Australia, Africa and South America.
As well as being able to survive incredibly long periods without food, they are extremely long living creatures. An aquarium in Chicago has had a Queensland lungfish in captivity for the last 81 years.
David Attenborough talks about the Queensland lungfish.
And lungfish that end up in mud bricks in Africa, until the rains come:
Time without food: 10 years
Olms are amphibians that live in water in underground caves throughout Italy, Croatia and Slovenia. They have no pigment in their skin, eyes that don’t work properly (it’s blind), fantastic hearing and smell, little feet with toes and gills. It’s also known as a cave salamander.
They prey on small crabs and snails and are extremely good at storing food in their body as lipids and glycogen. When there isn’t much food around they lower their metabolic rate and become inactive, living from their nutrient reserves.
Documented trials have demonstrated that these creatures can live for up to 10 years without food.
Searching for the elusive Olm:
Kangaroos can go without water for up to 5 years and Koala’s can go their whole life without drinking water. These animals get their water through the gum leaves they eat
The Hummingbird has such a high metabolism, to support it’s manic wing flapping, that it almost dies of starvation while it’s resting overnight.
Top 10 Animals That Can Survive Without Food
7. Emperor Penguin
9. Homo Sapien