Most of us have heard the expression, “quiet as a mouse”. But, mice aren’t even that quiet, are they? Especially not if they’re squeaking, chewing through wood, or burrowing in the wall.
That being said, there are plenty of animals that are quiet, even though people don’t go around saying, “quiet like a jellyfish”. Despite being quiet, though, many of these animals have at least some way that they can communicate with other members of their species.
So, what are some animals that are quiet?
Some land mammals that are quiet (while being capable of making noise) include owls, giraffes, elephants, rabbits, snakes, and lizards. Almost-silent marine animals include some fish species, jellyfish, sharks, octopuses, crabs, turtles, and sea urchins. Finally, some quiet invertebrates include critters like snails, worms, and butterflies.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at these different animals that are quiet for one reason or another. I’ll also talk about how they communicate and if there are any sounds they make, despite being almost silent most of the time.
7 Land Animals That Don’t Make Noise
Below, we’ll take a look at some mammals, reptiles, and other animals that are silent (or very quiet). While some of these animals do have the ability to produce sound, I’ve included animals that prefer a quiet existence for one reason or another. So, they are not all 100% silent but are quiet most of the time.
Different owl species have unique calls and if you’ve ever heard one at night, then you know owls aren’t completely silent. That being said, when they’re on the hunt, an owl’s prey may never hear it coming.
Owls are one of the quietest birds when it comes to aerodynamics, or the way that they fly through the air. Owls are known to feed on mice and other small mammals that can easily scurry away and hide if they were to hear an owl coming. So, an owl’s ability to fly in an almost-silent way is pretty important for sneaking up on prey.
The quietest owls are the Barn Owl and Great Gray Owl, which is incredibly helpful for hunting at night. They don’t have to fly as fast as other predatory birds like falcons, but it doesn’t really matter with their ability to fly silently through the night. Even if a falcon were silent, prey would be able to see it coming in the daylight.
Giraffes are known for their incredibly long necks, long legs, and their long tongues that can grow up to 18 inches. Some people also believe they are mute because these large, gentle creatures very rarely make sounds. In fact, the average giraffe goes days without vocalizing despite being very capable of making sound.
In the wild, giraffes are constantly on the watch for predators that might make them a meal. The average giraffe only rests and may sleep just 30 minutes per day, keeping a watchful eye out and staying alert the rest of the time.
At one time, scientists believed that giraffes may have communicated using sounds that humans cannot hear. Now, however, it’s known that giraffes actually hum. They have been recorded humming overnight.
Elephants are another of those big animals that you’d think made big noises. That being said, while we know that elephants are capable of emitting a loud trumpeting noise, they actually don’t do this as often as you’d think.
Usually, elephants only emit a trumpet when they are distressed, excited, or showing signs of aggression. Elephants can be aggressive, but usually only when threats are present or if they are protecting their young. Generally, they are very peaceful creatures.
Additionally, despite their large size, elephants walk very quietly. Their foot pads are designed in a way that distributes their weight evenly, absorbing the impact as they walk and helping them stay quiet.
As an animal that is heavily hunted by predators (especially young, elderly, or injured elephants) and humans, this helps them stay unnoticed despite their large size.
Rabbits are a popular pet for families that don’t want the noise of a cat or dog, but still want the benefit of something that can be cuddled with. While they are capable of making sounds, including thumping their feet and making vocal sounds like purring, grunting, or even screaming when attacked by a predator, rabbits are generally quiet animals.
In the wild, there are a lot of animals that eat rabbits. This includes birds of prey, wolves, foxes, large snakes, predatory cats, dogs, coyotes, and ferrets, to name a few. That’s likely one of the reasons that they are naturally quiet animals- it serves them well to be stealthy and go undetected when traveling in the wild.
That being said, having a rabbit as a pet is much different than a rabbit living in the wild. So, don’t be surprised if your rabbit purrs or expresses itself in other ways.
Like giraffes, sloths are known for their calm, relaxed lifestyle. They spend their days lounging in trees and eating and are actually one of the hungriest animals because of how their body digests (or rather, doesn’t digest) their food.
They don’t have a lot of energy and because they spend so much of their day eating, often, the only sound you’ll hear from sloths is the quiet munching of leaves, twigs, and other foods that make up their diet.
While adults are generally quiet, though, baby sloths are known to make vocalizations. They may squeak, shriek, or bleat like a lamb.
Snakes are another silent predator. They move using different types of locomotion, and while there are other animals that slither like snakes, not all of them move as silently.
The ability to move quietly and stalk prey is very beneficial to snakes, as it allows them to sneak up on much larger prey. If a snake had to chase these animals, they likely wouldn’t be as effective as predators. This is especially true when you consider that some snake species have especially bad eyesight and rely on smell or warmth to track prey.
While snakes generally stay silent because it benefits them, there are exceptions to this rule. Rattlesnakes, for example, use their rattle-like tail to make noise when someone or something startles them. Some snakes also do have one, single vocal cord that runs horizontally across the throat. This allows them to make a low, bellow sound.
There are more than 7,000 species of lizards in the world, many of them having a very quiet existence. One lizard in particular known for its quiet existence is the gecko.
While geckos are a popular pet, they’re known for hiding in dark, moist places like under rocks, in caves, and in trees. Geckos are nocturnal animals that prefer to come out only at night when they hunt for insects, staying hidden the rest of the time. Just because they usually do not emit sound doesn’t mean they aren’t capable, though.
Geckos and iguanas are two types of lizards that are known for occasionally emitting sound, though they are generally still quiet animals. Usually, they emit sounds related to courtship or for territorial reasons.
Bearded dragons are another lizard commonly kept as a pet that has a generally quiet existence. They may hiss or emit some sound, but this is usually a sign of distress or illness. And finally, the many types of anoles are known for being silent lizards.
We can assume there are more silent or almost-silent lizards out there, but it would take forever to break down all 7,000 species of lizards vocal communications!
7 Marine Animals That Are Quiet
Many marine animals are quiet, simply because fish typically lack vocal cords. Like in the case of bugs and insects, though, these animals have learned other ways to communicate and being unable to speak doesn’t mean they are completely silent. That being said, here are some honorable mentions of marine animals that are almost silent.
Jellyfish are really diverse in the sense that some are as small as a penny, while others (like the lion’s mane jellyfish) can grow to 120 feet long! What all these species have in common, though, is that they are incredibly quiet.
In addition to not having vocal cords, jellyfish don’t really communicate amongst themselves. They spend their days floating along in the ocean and actually lack the ability to communicate because they are one of the few species without a brain.
Jellyfish also don’t swim and instead use muscles to gently propel themselves through the ocean. These muscles operate silently, particularly deep in the ocean. This is likely one of the reasons it’s so easy for jellyfish to sneak up on their prey, almost like a “high-tech stealth submarine“.
Hollywood will have you believing sharks are ferocious creatures that emit a mighty roar when disturbed. Despite this reputation, though, sharks are some of the quietest predators in the world. And, with the exception of cases of mistaken identity or feeling threatened, humans are not generally on their list of prey.
Like other types of fish, sharks do not have any vocal cords that they would need to produce a roaring sound like what you hear in Hollywood. Instead, they communicate with other members of their species using body language. There are more than 500 species of shark and none of them have ever been studied and found to produce any type of noise.
Sharks can also swim quietly when necessary, almost gliding through the water. As nearly-silent predators, this is very helpful. Sharks are known for using an ambush style to attack prey and ambushing requires a predator to be sneaky.
Goldfish And Some Fish Species
Goldfish are a fairly popular pet, particularly for people who don’t have the time for a dog or cat. When cared for properly, the average goldfish lives 10-15 years and some are known to live up to 30 years with proper housing.
Over this long lifespan, goldfish are very quiet. In addition to lacking vocal cords, they are relatively calm fish that are almost silent pets. This, paired with their low maintenance, makes them great for people who live in apartments or who want a quieter pet.
Since fish do not have vocal cords, many other pet fish are also quiet. The exceptions are more active or aggressive breeds like the betta fish, which may be quiet still unless they are housed with other fish and fight.
In the ocean, however, it’s worth noting that despite their lack of vocal cords, some fish do make sounds. These are bubbling, grunts, chirps, and other audible sounds that fish likely use to communicate. Aristotle was the first person to note the sounds of fish thousands of years ago.
Turtles are another animal that may be kept as a pet known for its quiet nature. They come in all shapes and sizes, from large, water-dwelling sea turtles to smaller land turtles. Despite the many species out there, they all seem to be generally quiet in nature.
Turtles are known for being rather slow, quiet creatures. This doesn’t mean they can’t communicate though, despite years of people believing they are practically silent. Turtles actually make a wide variety of sounds, including purring, cooing, squeaking, croaking, sighing, and more.
They just aren’t always audible to the human ear. Plus, turtles may not have a lot of reason to try and communicate with humans, with the language barrier and all. Perhaps that’s why it’s taken so long for researchers to realize that turtles actually make a lot of sounds, and quite frequently.
Octopuses are true masters of disguise. They often spend their time lurking in the shadows, using their ability to change the tone and texture of their skin to blend into the surroundings of their natural habitat. As animals with complex brains that learn from past experiences, octopuses generally stay hidden from humans and other animals that might pose a threat.
While there are some threats to the octopus, they are an effective predator because of their long tentacles. They typically feed by ambushing prey, which includes clams, snails, fish, and crabs.
Octopuses can communicate with other members of their species, but they don’t do this using sound. Instead, octopuses communicate by changing the color of their body and using other types of body language.
Crabs are skittish creatures that spend a lot of their time either hiding from predators or scavenging for food. While they are capable of making clicking noises and appear ferocious when threatened, they generally keep to themselves in the shadows, using their shell to blend into their surroundings.
When crabs do make sounds, it’s by rubbing their legs together in a movement that’s called stridulation. They may also click their claws and communicate amongst themselves in other ways, despite not having vocal cords to produce sound the way that humans do.
Hermit crabs are also very quiet. While they are capable of making noise like crabs, they often hide from humans so it’s unlikely that your hermit crab is going to make noise when you are around until they are more familiar with your presence.
Like jellyfish, sea urchins do not have a brain. There may be some noise from their tiny legs moving across the bottom of the ocean floor, but this sound is barely audible in the vast ocean.
While sea urchinsvocalize, they do sometimes bump into other sea urchins and touch their feet briefly. These feet are tube-like structures that cover the entire sea urchin.
It’s not yet known if these chance interactions are actually communication, but it’s interesting for sure. Especially for an animal that doesn’t have a brain.
3 Quietest Invertebrates
You may not be surprised to learn that many invertebrates like insects and other critters don’t actually have vocal cords. Those that do make sounds often do it without a voice box like mammals have. For example, crickets communicate and make noise by rubbing their legs, wings, and other body parts together and despite not having vocal cords, they certainly are noisy.
With many bugs being so quiet, it’s no surprise that this could be a very extensive list. With that in mind, let’s jump into some honorable mentions of some incredibly quiet bugs and insects.
The reason snails are so quiet has to do with the way that they move, which is incredibly slow. Some snails are even so small and move so slowly that they don’t jostle leaves, grass, twigs, or other surfaces they are crawling across.
Snails also do not have vocal cords. Instead, they communicate with other members of their species using touch and other movements. They can also communicate using pheromones, primarily for finding a mate for reproduction.
Snails, however, are not 100% silent. They do make minimal noise when retracting into their houses or chewing. That being said, these sounds are still so quiet that they cannot be detected by the human ear.
Worms are another of those creatures that are incredibly diverse, with more than 20,000 different species that belong to different families across the animal kingdom. Even when they move along underground, the soft body of warms lets them move almost silently.
Like other bugs and insects, worms lack vocal cords that let them emit sound. Instead, they rely on their ability to produce around 150 different chemical smells, or pheromones, from their skin.
Despite the average earthworm being so quiet, it’s been hypothesized for years that birds might actually be able to hear these quiet creatures burrowing under the soil. Worms can hear vibrations in the soil too, which is a skill they rely on to run from predators.
Butterflies are another critter without any vocal cords, which helps them stay silent. They also move fairly silently through the air because of their small size.
Butterflies fly almost silently, or at the least, in a way that’s silent to a human ear. Researchers have found that butterflies “clap” their wings together when flying and that is what makes them so aerodynamic with their wings, which are much shorter and broader relative to body size when you compare them to other aerodynamic animals like birds.
Additionally, rather than relying on movements or vocalization, butterflies communicate with each other using chemical cues like worms do. There are exceptions to this rule, though. Butterflies like the male cracker butterfly use their wings to make “loud” noises to communicate with other butterflies.
What Is The Quietest Animal In The World?
It’s hard to say what the quietest animal in the world is because there are many contenders. Of those we’ve discussed, however, the jellyfish may be the quietest.
Jellyfish are so quiet that they often go undetected by humans and prey. They use muscles to move themselves silently through water and don’t produce any audible sound or sudden movements that might cause splashing or sound underwater. Additionally, jellyfish don’t audibly communicate with other jellyfish and just spend their days floating along, giving them a very quiet existence.
Are There A Lot Of Animals That Are Silent?
No, there are not many animals that are completely silent. Animals make two different types of sounds; vocal and mechanical.
Vocal animal sounds include any audible sounds they make using their vocal cords. This includes sounds they make out of fear, to get attention, to find a mate, or other forms of communication with other members of their species.
Mechanical animal sounds include audible noises that don’t use an animal’s vocal cords. For example, these are noises made when an animal moves, chews, or fights with other animals.
To be completely silent, an animal would have to make no sounds while moving as well as no vocal noises. There are some animals capable of being silent when they want to be, but most are not 100% silent. Even worms have been documented making grunting sounds on the earth.
How Do Animals That Are Quiet Communicate?
Being quiet does not mean that an animal cannot communicate, especially among members of its own species. Scientists still have a lot to learn about animal communication, but many animals do have at least some way to communicate among members of their species.
For those without vocal cords, animals communicate using body language, the release of pheromones, senses like touch, and other ways. Even when they can communicate, though, some animals like the giraffe spend days without vocalizing.
Animals that are quiet don’t necessarily lack the ability to communicate, but they may lead a fairly quiet life for one reason or another. Some animals stay quiet to avoid predators, while others are quiet because it helps them hunt prey.
Additionally, even when animals are quiet or don’t have vocal cords, it does not mean they are not capable of producing other sounds. It also does not mean they cannot communicate, as there are many ways that animals use to communicate across different species.