The study of ultra-fast cheetahs and super-strong beetles offers great value to people, which is why a mounting number of scientists pay attention to superlative organisms. “Superlative” is all about such extreme life forms.

“There is always room at the top”

Over time, a lot of animals get bigger, which is dubbed Cope’s Rule. The reason: once an animal finds itself at the top of the heap within its biome, they escape the competition.

In his 2019 book “Superlative,” journalist and author Matthew LaPlante deals with animals and plants, which are fastest, tallest, heaviest, and strongest.

Included in the list are elephants, dolphins, cheetahs, water bears, and Pando, a clonal colony of an individual male quaking aspen, which is the world’s largest known plant.

Studying such “superlative” organisms have two advantages. First, they arrest the attention of people, who are typically not interested in science, especially biology.

“Extreme organisms are unquestionably interesting, and that allows us to tell important stories about ecology, conservation, research, and scientific history to people who might not otherwise think they’re all that interested in science,” he wrote.

Another merit is that they can really help out people. For example, the fastest bird shows us how to solve a century-old engineering mystery. The loudest whale is offering clues about the effect of solar storms.

Oddballs can offer great values

Hence, the author vows to keep studying superlative life forms, which have been ignored by scientists as outliers.

“I remained enamored by extremes, as a lot of people do. And this, I think, presents us with an opportunity to re-engage in the world with the awe and excitement of children _ for the next superlative discovery could well belong to one of us,” he noted.

“I firmly believe that there is something greater than Pando out there. Finding it is just a matter of time, patience, and luck… I will search for something that is greatest, and no matter what comes of that search, I will find something great.”

The book won the 2019 Foreword Indie Silver Award for Science.

The publisher studied Korean history in Seoul and management of business administration in the United Kingdom. He has 20-year experiences in the media business. Kim can be reached at or 82-2-6956-6698.