The 10 Largest Structures Built by Animals

We associate animals with many qualities. We know things like dogs are good companions, lions are powerful, honeybees are a crucial food source, etc…

The list can go on and on depending on each animal. However, we never include the architectural abilities of animals to the list.

Now, it seems like, we have to because these 10 amazing structures are built by animals and those represent their great architectural abilities.


1. Cliff Nests Built by Swallows

Largest animal made structures
Cliff swallow nests

If you see the bubbles-shaped mud structures on the surface of cliffs, then you are looking at mud nests built by swallows.

There is a type of swallows that like to build their nests on the cliffs or any other vertical surfaces. They are commonly known as cliff swallows.

The cliff swallows are one of the most social birds on our planet. They live in a colony. Sometimes, their larger colonies can build about 6000 active nests in one site, creating the largest bird settlements in a single area.

Also, one of their engineering abilities is reflected in how they build an entrance to their nests. Tiny entrances always face down, preventing the rain and wind from coming inside directly.

2. Give the carpenter ants a wood, they will make wonders.

Largest animal structures- carpenter ant wood carving
Wood carving done by carpenter ants

Carpenter ants are the nature’s wood carving machines. That is how they got their official name.

Mostly, when a tree dies and starts to decay, carpenter ants move towards it as a colony with a single mission in mind.

They enter the tree through a small cavity and start making their way deep inside, carving it out like true masters.

However, unlike termites, they do not eat wood. They just break them into tiny dust-like shavings and dump them outside to make a room for their future nest.

Carpenter ants usually prefer moisture. Therefore, people most likely see carpenter ant infestation in their homes if there is any moisture-induced decaying.

Although they cause some structural damage to our homes, they are one of the valuable insects to nature. They accelerate the decomposition process of dead trees, in turn, the compost helps the soil to get good nutrients.

Carpenter ants are also one of the outstanding laborers of the planet. Many quotes praise them as exemplary hard-working insects.

For example: “An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox” – Lao Tzu

3. The biggest wasp nest found in an abandoned home in Spain.

The largest animal made structures: the largest wasp nest
Largest wasp nest found in Spain

22 ft (6.7 m) long nest was found in a home in Spain by a police officer who came to check an abandoned house.

According to the story, the wasp nest, which is believed to be built by African wasps, almost filled one of the rooms of the house.

If the measurements are accurate, then, its size is the largest in the world. Because it beats the previous world record.

Currently, the one found in the Waimaukau, New Zeland is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest wasp nest ever found. However, its size is 12 ft (3.7 meters) long and the diameter is about 5 ft (1.5 m). That means it is way smaller than the one found in Spain.

It is not that unusual for wasps to build mega-structures like the ones we mentioned. If their construction site is not disturbed during an extensive length of time, they are capable of creating mega structures.

For instance, a 6ft (1.8 m) high wasp nest was found in the Southampton pub in 2010. That one was considered one of the largest among the recent finds, and the largest in Britain. Reportedly, it was capable of facilitating about 500,000 wasps and was estimated 15 times bigger than the average nests found in Britain.

4. A nest built by tiny birds almost makes a tree to collapse.

The largest structures built by animals: sociable weaver nest
A large sociable weaver nest on a tree

If we talk about the largest structures built by animals, we have to include the large nests created by sociable weavers into our discussion.

These tiny birds, which dwell in Southern Africa, make wonders by building the largest bird nests in the world. Unlike many other birds, they build permanent nests that will last for several generations.

Interestingly, a single nest includes many chambers which house a pair and their offsprings. Their engineering ability helps them to build nests in a way that each chamber stays in the normal temperature even during the cold seasons.

The largest weaver nests can facilitate about 500 birds. The size of the nest can reach 20 ft (6.1 m) in length, and 13ft (4 m) in width.

That is a mega-structure when you consider the fact that the size of a sociable weaver is only about 5.5 inches (14 cm).

Huge structures built by animals
A large sociable weaver nest on electricity pole

However, their nest does not always stay permanent as they intend to. For instance, sociable weavers sometimes build their nests on the electricity poles. Thus, during the wet seasons, their nest causes a short circuit, or during the dry seasons, their nest sometimes catches on fire.

5. High mounds built by Termites.

Animal mega structures: Termite hills
Termite hills in Australia

We mostly know termites as destroyers, not builders. Although they like to eat the wooden structures of our homes, they use that energy to build their own homes elsewhere.

Of course, we would not be able to see their high mounds near our homes. If we did, we would of get rid of them quickly.

However, if you were to travel dry Savannas of South America, Australia, or Africa, you would see castle-like towers in far away horizon. Once you get closer to them, you will notice that they are nothing other than towers built by termites.

Some of the highest termite mounds are built by Nasutitermes Triodiae, also known as “Cathedral” termites. Those mounds can reach up to 26 ft ( 8 m) in height, and they are widespread in Western Australia and Queensland areas. The termite mounds are considered as “the tallest non-human structures in the world”

According to the Associate professor Nathan Lo from the University of Sydney, these mounds are a humongous project for something tiny like termites which has only 0.12 inch (3mm) height. He states that these structures in human terms are the equivalent of “four Burj Khalifas stacked on top of each other”


6. Naked mole-rats are one of the best tunnel engineers.

The largest structures constructed by animals: Naked mole-rat tunnel
A drawing of a tunnel dug by naked mole rats (credit: The Scientist Magazine)

We all know that the longest and most sophisticated tunnels are built by humans. There is no comparison to human skills.

However, naked mole-rats, who spend most of their life underground, are not falling too much behind in engineering one of the longest tunnel on our planet.

Their ability is even more impressive than that of humans. Especially, if you consider the fact that they carving all of those tunnels by using their two front teeth.

Some of their underground tunnels can stretch over 1.7 miles (2.8 km). Jan Skliba and his colleagues from the University of South Bohemia in the Czech Republic carried out extensive research on Zambian mole-rats to understand their underground society.

They chose 16 colonies for that research. After the measurements, they found that tunnel built by each colony was in an average 0.75 mile (1.2 km) in length.

The naked mole-rats are like digging machines. They can dig deeper although oxygen levels are so poor underground.

They are one of the few animals that can live without oxygen for a long time, and they do not feel any pain. Amazingly, they are also one of a few animals that do not get cancer and the only rodents that can live over 32 years.

Also, mole-rats are social animals. The researchers found that 9 of the 16 colonies had a tunnel connecting them to their neighboring colonies.

For instance, one of the colonies was connected to four other colonies through tunnels. As result, the joint length of their underground tunnel exceeded 4.5 miles (7.2 km)

7. A huge underground megalopolis built by ants

the largest structures built by animals
Excavation of a large anthill in Brazil

Ants are one of the industrious insects in the world. Like human structures, their structures are well planned and beautifully constructed.

However, they do not use tools and equipment as humans do. Instead, they merely depend on the labors of worker ants of the colony.

The largest known ant colony in the world was discovered in Europe by scientists from France, Switzerland, and Denmark. The length of the colony was over 3,700 miles (6000 km) long. It starts from the territory of France and stretches all the way to the Atlantic coast of Spain.

Linepithema Humiles, which is popularly known as Argentine ants, were the industrious constructors of this mega queendom. There were thousands of ant nests along the stretch of the colony.

Interestingly, all the ants from each of these nests recognize the ants from the other nests. That was how the scientists could determine that all those ant nests are interconnected. And, the occupants that dwell in them belong to the same ant colony.

An anthill found in Brazil can be a good example of a single mega-structure built by ants. When researchers found that nest, it was already abandoned. So, they poured about 10 tonnes of concrete in it in order to solidify the shape of the underground structure.

A month later, they dug the nest and uncovered an ant city that occupied about 500 sq ft (152.4 sqm) area about 26 ft (8 m) below the ground. Once the ant nest was fully uncovered, a sophisticated ant megalopolis with several highways, pathways, and hundreds of chambers came to clear vision.

Each of those chambers was carefully designed for specific purposes, such as: storing food, keeping waste, storing eggs, nursing offsprings, etc…

8. 10,000 -year-old giant tunnels dug by mysterious creatures

The largest animal structures built by animals: Palaeburrows
A palaeoburrow (Photo credit: Amilcar Adamy)

When several giant tunnels were found in the 1930s in the southern parts of Brazil, researchers thought that it might be another archeological underground structure that possibly dug by early humans.

Only in 2010, the site was revisited by a geologist Amilcar Adamy from the Brazilian Geological Survey. Adamy’s preliminary inspections revealed that the tunnels did not develop from a natural process.

According to his own words, the structure “did not look natural”. The carefully constructed tunnels looked way different than the cavities formed by water. Then, a question raised: if nature and the early humans did not build them, who on the earth carved those giant tunnels?

A clue was discovered a few years later when a professor Heinrich Frank from the Federal University of Rio Grande de Sul in Brazil found a similar cave in the town of Novo Hamburgo. He got inside the tunnel and detected many parallel grooves on the walls which he identified as claw marks of an ancient creature.

An ancient mega sloth was chosen as the best candidate for this kind of extensive digging. Interestingly, now there are an estimated 1500 of so-called Paloeburrows in that region alone.

There are two types of paleoburrows: the smaller ones with 4.9 ft (1.5 meters) diameter and the large ones that are 6.6 ft (2 m) high and 13 ft (4 m) wide.

According to researchers, the larger tunnels were dug by the Lestodon genus of South American ground sloth, while smaller ones believed to be the works of Glossotherium sloths.

9. A humongous animals structure was spotted on Google Earth

The largest structures built by animals: A beaver dam
The largest beaver dam in the world (credit: Google Earth)

In 2007, a large earth-colored patch was detected in the Wood Buffalo Park in Alberta, Canada. The unusual patch spotted in the middle of the green forest with the help of Google Earth.

After observing the area closely, researchers identified it as a dam built by beavers. The discovery was surprising, especially for the stuff of the Park. Because, all those years, they did not even know that the largest beaver dam in the world existed in the area controlled by them. They only knew about the giant structure when they were contacted by the BBC’s filming crew.

It is understandable why nobody had noticed them before. Because the dam was formed about 50 miles (80 km) away from the nearby human settlement, deep in the woods.

Currently, the dam is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest beaver dam on the planet. The size of the dam is outstanding.

Usually, an average beaver dam that is considered large if it is around 1,500 ft (457 m). However, this one measures around 2,788 ft (850 meters) long. According to the scientific estimations, beavers must have started the construction in 1975.

10. The Great Barrier Reef is built by animals.

The largest animal-made structures: The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef (Credit: Wikimedia)

I have just made a bold statement by saying that one of the well-known landmarks of the oceans were created by animals.

That is true. Not only that, all of the coral reefs are formed from living creatures.

Corals are not rocks nor plants as most people think. Instead, they are composed of tiny animals called polyps.

Contrary to the characteristics of plants, polyps do not produce their own food. Instead, they depend on the food produced by algae. Corals have tiny tentacle-like hands which they use to capture their food and push into their “mouth”.

Currently, the Great Barrier reef is seen as the largest animal-made structure in the world. It is also the world’s largest coral system which consists of 2900 individual reefs and 900 islands in the area of 133,000 square miles (344,400 square kilometers).

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By Arslan Batyrovich

Founder of
Writer, Researcher, Fact-finder, and All-in-one
Loves nature, Likes history, and Adores anything interesting
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