Even though they’re rare in the animal kingdom, animals with big lips definitely exist. Lips seem to be a trait almost unique to primates (humans included), but let’s take a look at a few other species with big lips.
- Beluga Whales
- Big-lip Damselfish
- Napoleon Fish
- Star Sapphires
- Proboscis Monkeys
Scientific name (genus): Camelus
Something that many people don’t know about camels is that they have some of the most advanced lips on Earth. Camels have two lips, with the upper lip slit in two (which basically means that they have three lips).
This allows them to graze on any food. The lips of a camel are so thick and hardy that they can easily eat thorny food. In camel shows (yes, those exist), lips play a huge role in judging.
In fact, they’re so important that an incident occurred in 2018 when it was discovered that twelve camels’ lips were injected with Botox before the competition!
Scientific name: Hippopotamus amphibius
Hippos have some of the biggest animal lips, which isn’t surprising when you take their size into account. They use their lips to grasp and pull on grasses, which they then chew.
With time, their lips have evolved to be very tough – they’re not soft like human lips.
They need to be able to rip out hard plants from the ground, so their lips almost act as teeth. Hippos have large mouths and massive teeth, so their lips need to be big enough to cover those teeth and protect them.
3. Beluga Whales
Scientific name: Delphinapterus leucas
Beluga whales aren’t the only sea animals with lips, but they definitely have the most useful pair. Not only do they use them for grabbing and chewing, but also to produce facial expressions and various sounds.
For example, a beluga whale can form their lips in an ‘O’ shape, similar to the shape we make when we pronounce the word ‘wow’.
Incredibly, their facial expressions are very human-like. Their forehead (called the melon) also moves when they communicate.
4. Big-lip Damselfish
Scientific name: Cheiloprion labiatus
Found in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, this fish is impossible to miss when it comes to lips. This fish’s lips are almost as large as its face, and they come in handy when feeding.
The big-lip damselfish feeds on Acropora corals, which have a sharp skeleton. The lips of this fish are strong, providing some protection from cutting and scratching.
However, this isn’t the only fish with lips, as we’ll now see that they’re quite common in the marine world.
5. Napoleon Fish
Scientific name: Cheilinus undulatus
This huge fish, weighing up to 370 pounds, is found on Africa’s east coast and the mouth of the Red Sea – it will sometimes swim up to the Indian Ocean and Pacific. Because of its size, this is the fish with the biggest lips.
It is yet to be confirmed what they use their lips for, but it’s suspected that they suck up smaller fish. Unfortunately, this species is endangered and its numbers are dropping rapidly.
6. Star Sapphires
Scientific name: Placidochromis phenochilus
This endangered species is endemic to Lake Malawi in Tanzania, and they’re animals with a big upper lip. Because of the difficult situation in the wild, there are more of them in captivity than there are in Lake Malawi.
A variation of this fish, called Mdoka or White Lip, has very bright, large lips, which look massive on a fish that’s barely 6 inches long!
7. Proboscis Monkeys
Scientific name: Nasalis larvatus
Some of the most human-like looking primates (if humans had a huge, hanging nose), proboscis monkeys have a very wide set of lips. The lips can be difficult to see, though, as they’re covered by a large, pear-shaped hanging nose.
Just like with humans, their big lips are important for feeding and communication.
Scientific name (genus): Pongo
Orangutans are animals with big bottom lips, and they use them very efficiently when it comes to communication. For example, an annoyed orangutan will suck air through its lips to make a squeaking sound.
Their upper lip can be large too, especially with males, while the bottom lip is usually covered with a beard.
Orangutans’ communication system is entirely dependent on their lips, which is why they’re the most similar animal to humans in the way they use their mouths.
Scientific name (family): Cichlidae
Flowerhorn cichlids are unique for a few things. Most notably, they have a giant forehead, but their lips can also blow up to an incredible size. This happens to flowerhorns in aquariums because of an illness called duck lip.
It’s treatable, and the most prominent symptom is the swelling of the lips, turning them from a normal fish into a fish with big lips.