Bay Journal

Superlative soup surprise

  • By Kathleen Gaskell on February 16, 2017
  • Comments are closed for this article.
The great horned owl’s wingspan is 36–60 inches.  (Dave Harp)

First, fastest, smallest, tallest. Look at this diverse collection of pairs, then choose what you think is the right answer.

Even if you are correct, the answer may still surprise you. Detailed answers — including fun facts — are found below.

Note: there is occasionally a record-setting individual that is not typical for its species — this quiz considers what is average for each species.

1. Which has the more toxic venom: a black widow spider or a rattlesnake?

2. Which bird has the faster dive: an osprey or a peregrine falcon?

3. Which grew first on Earth: ferns or flowering plants?

4. Which appeared first on Earth: conifers or hardwoods?

5. Which has a longer gestation period: a black bear or a mountain lion?

6. Which has a longer gestation period: a raccoon or a beaver?

7. Which is saltier: the Upper Bay or the Lower Bay?

8. Which is heavier: a gallon of saltwater or a gallon of freshwater?

9. Which of these rivers is longer: the Susquehanna or
the Rappahannock?

10. Which lives longer: a bald cypress or white oak?

11. Which bird has the heavier brain in proportion to the rest of its body weight: a hummingbird or an owl?
12. Which has been around longer: the blue crab or the horseshoe crab?

13. Which animal can hold its breath longer underwater: a muskrat or a beaver?

14. Which is more tolerant of warm water: the largemouth or smallmouth bass?

15. Which has a greater wingspan: the great blue heron or a great horned owl?

16. Which has more legs: a bumblebee or a blue crab?

17. Which is the bigger salamander: the Eastern hellbender or the red-spotted newt?

18. Which is longer: a northern ring-necked snake or a black rat snake?
19. Which weighs more: a golden-crowned kinglet or a brand new nickel?

20. Which shoreline (including tidal tributaries) is longer: the Chesapeake Bay or the U.S. West Coast?

21. Which is greater: the average depth of the Chesapeake Bay or the average height of a two-story house?

22. Which is quicker: the Chesapeake’s fastest mammal, the elk, or the Bay’s fastest reptile, the leatherback sea turtle?

23. Which lives longer: the Northern diamondback terrapin or the Eastern box turtle?

24. Which produces more eggs: a female blue crab or a female oyster?

25. Whose mating call is louder: the North American bullfrog or the American toad?

26. Which can dive deeper: the greater scaup or the long-tailed duck?

27. Which tree sap has a higher sugar content: the silver maple or the paper birch?


1. The black widow’s venom is more potent, but it injects such a small amount that its bite is rarely fatal to humans. For the record, deaths from rattlesnake bites are rare as well.

2. Peregrine falcon dives have been recorded at 200 mph; ospreys’ at 80 mph.

3. Fernlike plants showed up in fossils dated to 433 million years ago; flowering plants began to grow 140–125 million years ago, according to fossil finds.

4. Conifers evolved around 285 million years ago; hardwoods showed up in fossils dating to around 140–125 million years ago.

5. Bears typically produce cubs 210–215 days after mating; mountain lions take 91 days.

6. Beavers take 105 days to produce their kits [6 days longer than the mountain lion]; raccoons need just 63 for their young.

7. The Lower Bay, which gets a new surge of saltwater with every incoming tide from the ocean.

8. A gallon of salt water weighs an average 8.6 pounds; a gallon of freshwater weighs 8.36 pounds.

9. The Susquehanna’s length, at 464 miles, is more than twice the 195-mile length of the Rappahannock. The Susquehanna is the longest river east of the Mississippi that flows into the Atlantic.

10. Bald cypress can live 600 years or more; the white oak lasts an average 300 years.

11. At 4.2 percent of its body weight, the tiny hummingbird’s brain is the largest of all birds.

12. The horseshoe crab, which is often called a “living fossil.” Its ancestors have been around 450 million years.

13. A beaver can stay underwater 20 minutes; a muskrat, 12 minutes.

14. The largemouth bass, which can handle warmer temperatures, is found in quiet, vegetated, clear to slightly cloudy streams, ponds or lakes. The smallmouth bass requires cool, clear streams with swift currents over rocky or gravel bottoms.

15. The great blue heron’s wingspan is 65–70 inches; the great horned owl’s is 36–60 inches.

16. Blue crabs have four pairs of legs — three for walking and the fourth for swimming. The bumblebee has three pairs of legs, the rear pair have stiff hairs that help the insect collect pollen.

17. The Eastern hellbender, North America’s largest salamander, can grow as long as 29 inches and weigh 3.3–5.5 pounds. The newt is tiny by comparison: It is 2.5–5.5 inches long, and weighs 0.2–0.4 ounces.

18. The black rat snake is 3.5–6 feet long; the northern ring-necked snake is only 10–15 inches in length.

19. It depends. A new nickel weighs 5 grams. Golden-crowned kinglets weigh 4–7.8 grams.

20. The Bay has 11,684 miles of shoreline, the West Coast’s shoreline is 40,298 miles.

21. The average depth of the Chesapeake Bay is 21 feet; the average height of a two-story house is 20–25 feet.

22. The elk can run in bursts of 45 mph; the leatherback sea turtle can swim 21.75 mph.

23. Box turtles typically live around 50 years, though some have been known to survive more than 100 years; terrapins live 25–40 years.

24. It depends on if or when they are harvested. A female blue crab can produce 750,000 to 8 million eggs in her lifetime, depending on her size. An oyster can release about 100 million eggs each year.

25. Bullfrogs are the world’s loudest amphibian, with croaks of 119 decibels. The American toad call is 90 decibels. For comparison, the noise of a motorcycle heard by its rider reaches 100 decibels.

26. The long-tailed duck is reported to be able to dive to 200 feet; the greater scaup is a diving duck, too, but descends only 20 feet below the surface.

27. The sugar content in the sap of a sugar maple is 2 percent. The sugar content in a paper birch’s is 1 percent. Birch trees are tapped for syrup in areas where maples don’t grow.

About Kathleen Gaskell

Kathleen A. Gaskell, the layout & design editor for the Bay Journal, has been involved with several environmental programs for children.

Read more articles by Kathleen Gaskell


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