Last updated on November 4th, 2022
What animals hang upside down? This is one of the questions on every animal biologist’s mind.
However, children can be pretty curious, and some of their questions can baffle you, even if it is for a moment.
For example, my neighbor, a second-grade teacher, told me of a hilarious experience she had recently while teaching her class about gravity.
When she explained why things fall and how we manage to stand, some children promptly said gravity did not exist as certain animals can hang upside down!
As she broke into peals of laughter, it took her quite some time to explain to the little children that it is the unique ability of some creatures of the animal kingdom, and that does not mean that gravity does not exist.
Animals that can hang upside down:
- Spider Monkeys
List of animals that hang upside down:
Sloths are one of those creatures that spend most of their lives hanging upside down.
You must have seen pictures of sloths hanging from branches of trees and their sharp claws digging into the branches.
The anatomy of sloths is built in a way that they do not have any trouble breathing even while they hang upside down from the branch of a tree.
Research has shown that sloths have special adhesions internally that ensure the organs stay in particular places inside their bodies.
The stomach and the guts of a sloth do not press against its ribs when it hangs upside down due to these adhesions.
This prevents the organs from pressing against the lungs and allows the sloth to breathe freely.
2. Spider monkeys
Spider monkeys are unique creatures, and they can be easily distinguished by their ability to hang upside down from trees.
These monkeys use their long limbs and prehensile tails to hang onto the branches and jump from one branch to another tree.
Sometimes they can do so even while hanging upside down. This unique ability to hang upside down gives this particular species of monkey the name ‘spider monkey.’
The monkey uses its tail as a fifth limb and almost resembles a ‘spider.’ The spider monkey can also spend hours hanging upside down from the branch of the trees.
Orangutans are known to be the heaviest tree-dwelling creatures. You can quickly identify orangutans by their orange coats and long fore and hind arms.
You might often see orangutans brachiating when they swing from one branch to another by just changing from one arm to another.
But there is another movement that orangutans are famous for, and this is to hang upside down with the help of their strong hind limbs and prehensile feet.
The orangutans are known to hang upside down from branches of trees for hours.
They will do it mainly to reach the fruits and leaves on the farthest ends of the branches.
As the hind limbs of the orangutans are pretty long, they hang upside down and use their forelimbs to reach the fruits at the farthest ends of a branch.
Lemurs are quadrupedal, and their long striped tails easily distinguish them.
You will find that lemurs use all of their limbs for locomotion. But they are dependent on their tail when they hang upside down from branches of trees.
Unlike spider monkeys, lemurs do not have prehensile tails. Their tails are essential for balance and movement.
They use it to hold on to the branches and to maneuver through the branches of the trees.
Like the black and white ruffles lemurs, some lemurs spend most of their lives in trees, even building their nests there, which means they are excellent climbers.
Bats are the quintessential creatures that hang upside down.
You will find that bats often look for suitable places where they can roost and are protected from predators, and they will hang upside down with their wings wrapped around their bodies like cloaks.
A bat’s wings are different from a bird’s, and they cannot take off like birds.
Instead, they use their toes to keep themselves locked in place, and their muscles and tendons are designed so that they do not exert any additional pressure to remain in an upside-down position.
So it is surprising that once their toes and legs are locked in place, gravity and their body weight help them keep hanging upside down.
Spiders are often seen hanging upside down from their web, especially when moving toward their prey. You will mostly observe this in the case of your garden spiders.
Most garden spiders weave orb-shaped webs, and when their prey is trapped in the web, they head towards the prey with their head downwards.
This often helps the spider build the momentum to reach the prey faster and prevent the prey from escaping.
Sometimes a spider’s prey on top of the web often falls, and by moving upside down, the spider can reach its prey faster if it falls through the web.
Gravity here comes to the aid of the spider as it moves upside down toward its prey.
Hummingbirds sometimes hang upside down from a feeder, and this condition is often known as ‘torpor.’
This happens when the bird’s heart rate and breathing are lowered, and to conserve energy, the bird goes into a deep sleep.
In this condition, the bird is unaware, and if the feeder is smooth, the bird begins to hang upside down.
If the hummingbird enters the torpor state, then it might become difficult to arouse the bird from the state.
Sometimes hummingbirds enter the torpor states if it has to be fed heavily to be woken up.
A hummingbird can also fall asleep and hang upside down if it feels cold. Therefore, it is necessary to wake the bird if it stays in this condition for too long.