How did Noah fit the millions and millions of species on this planet into his ark?
The Ark measured 300 × 50 × 30 cubits (Genesis 6:15), which is about 140 × 23 × 13.5 metres or 459 × 75 × 44 feet, so its volume was 43,500 m³ (cubic metres) or 1.54 million cubic feet. To put this in perspective, this is the equivalent carrying capacity of 340 semitrailer trucks (i.e. articulated lorries), each of which can hold 37 1,200-pound slaughter steers, 90 500-pound feeder calves, 180 250-pound hogs, or 300 125-pound sheep. This would be a line six lanes wide and half a mile long.
If the animals were kept in cages with an average size of 50 × 50 × 30 centimetres (20 × 20 × 12 inches), that is 75,000 cm³ (cubic centimetres) or 4800 cubic inches, the 16,000 animals would only occupy 1200 m³ (42,000 cubic feet) or 14.4 stock cars. Even if a million insect species had to be on board, it would not be a problem, because they require little space. If each pair was kept in cages of 10 cm (four inches) per side, or 1000 cm³, all the insect species would occupy a total volume of only 1000 m³, or another 12 cars. This would leave room for five trains of 99 cars each for food, Noah’s family and ‘range’ for the animals. However, insects are not included in the meaning of behemah orremes in Genesis 6:19-20, so Noah probably would not have taken them on board as passengers anyway.
Tabulating the total volume is fair enough, since this shows that there would be plenty of room on the Ark for the animals with plenty left over for food, range etc. It would be possible to stack cages, with food on top or nearby (to minimize the amount of food carrying the humans had to do), to fill up more of the Ark space, while still allowing plenty of room for gaps for air circulation. We are discussing an emergency situation, not necessarily luxury accommodation. Although there is plenty of room for exercise, skeptics have overstated animals’ needs for exercise anyway.
Even if we don’t allow stacking one cage on top of another to save floor space, there would be no problem. Woodmorappe shows from standard recommended floor space requirements for animals that all of them together would have needed less than half the available floor space of the Ark’s three decks. This arrangement allows for the maximum amount of food and water storage on top of the cages close to the animals.
To answer this question, we must first ask how many animals were actually on the ark. Critics have fantasized the presence of millions of animals overloading the ark. In actuality, the Bible makes it clear that the cargo was limited to land-dwelling, air-breathing vertebrate animals—corresponding to modern birds, mammals, and reptiles, as well as their extinct counterparts.
Was every species on the ark? No! From chapters such as Leviticus 11, it is obvious that the created kind (min in Hebrew, in Genesis 1:11–12, 21, 24–25) was a much broader category than the modern term of classification, species. Current baraminological2 research suggests that the created kind most closely corresponded to the family level in current taxonomy. However, to be conservative in this study, the genus was set as equivalent to the original created kind. As for the clean animals that entered the ark in seven pairs, this added a modest number of additional animals, notably bovids (cow-like mammals) and cervids (deer-like mammals). Under these conservative assumptions, there were no more than 16,000 land animals and birds on the ark.
According to the Bible, the ark had three decks (floors). It is not difficult to show that there was plenty of room for 16,000 animals, assuming they required approximately the same floor space as animals in typical farm enclosures and laboratories today. The vast majority of the creatures (birds, reptiles, and mammals) are small. The largest animals were probably only a few hundred pounds of body weight.
It is still necessary to take account of the floor spaces required by large animals, such as elephants, giraffes, rhinos, and some dinosaurs. But even these, collectively, do not require a large area. God would likely have sent to Noah young (and therefore small, but not newborn) representatives of these kinds so that they would have a full reproductive potential for life after the Flood to repopulate the earth (Genesis 7:1–3). Even the largest dinosaurs were relatively small when only a few years old.
Without tiering of cages, only 47 percent of the ark floor would have been necessary. What’s more, many could have been housed in groups, which would have further reduced the required space.
What about the provisions for the animals? It can be shown that the food would have filled only 6 to 12 percent of the volume of the ark, and the potable water only an additional 9 percent of the same.
This is one of the most-asked questions we receive as a ministry. Although we have answered it many times before, it continues to be a trouble spot for people for many reasons.
One cause for the confusion surely is due to the “bathtub arks” commonly depicted in children’s storybooks, wallpaper, and toys. These things give people an entirely wrong impression of how large the Ark truly was. Rather than being a cute toy with the giraffes’ heads popping out of the roof that would be toppled by the waves, the biblical Ark was a massive vessel, at least one and a half football fields in length.
The second reason for the misunderstanding has to do with the number of animals required to be on the Ark. Secularists often claim that millions of animals would have been necessary based on the number of species of animals on earth. There are a couple of problems with this suggestion. Noah did not need to bring every species of animal; he was instructed to bring every “kind” of animal, which is much more like the family level in modern taxonomy. Also, he did not need to bring the sea creatures and may not have needed to take insects on board. Removing these creatures from the total count drastically reduces the actual number of animals Noah would have brought on board.
Skeptics frequently scoff at the notion that Noah did not need to bring millions of animals on board the Ark, but have they ever taken the time to figure out how many animals would have been required? Over the past several years, researchers have been working on a detailed study to do just that. The Answers Research Journal has published the findings of these researchers on the mammals, salamanders and newts, frogs, birds, turtles and crocodiles, and snakes (the studies on lizards and the extinct animals have not been published yet).
Creation researchers are using a “worst-case scenario” approach. That is, since hybridization data (i.e., information on which animals are capable of interbreeding) is lacking on many of the animals, the creatures that may be of the same “kind” are still separated giving a higher total than necessary. For example, a particular family of salamanders is divided into 26 different “kinds” even though researchers are quite certain they all belong to the same kind.
So how many animals were on the Ark? The total number of kinds (not including the forthcoming studies on lizards and the extinct animals) determined by researchers so far is less than 600. Of course, there were two each of the unclean animals and seven, or seven pairs, of the clean animals and winged creatures. Even when using the “worst case scenario” for the number of animals, it appears that the final count will be well under 5,000 animals. Consider that a recent study at the University of Leicester demonstrated that an Ark built to the dimensions given in Scripture would have floated with 70,000 animals.
Finally, one point that stands out in this research is that only eight percent of the animals weigh more than 10 kg while 78 percent weigh less than 1 kg. We understand that this study does not yet include the dinosaurs. But most dinosaur kinds were not very large, and even the grandest of dinosaurs started out small. It makes sense for God to send juvenile animals to Noah for many reasons: they eat less, are more resilient, take up less room, and will have more years to reproduce after the Flood.
We believe people will be quite surprised at how well the animals would have fit on such an enormous vessel. The Ark Encounter will demonstrate how this common objection and many more like it really have no basis when one understands the details of the account. To find out more about the Ark Encounter and how you can join us in building this gospel proclaiming project, please visit arkencounter.com.
How did Noah fit all of those animals on the ark? Was the ark big enough to fit “two of every kind… of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind,” and seven of some kinds? What about food? There had to be enough room to store enough food to last Noah and his family (8 in all), plus all of the animals, at least a year (see Genesis 7:11; 8:13-18) and maybe more, depending on how long it took for vegetation to grow back. That’s a lot of food! What about drinking water? Is it realistic to believe that Noah’s boat was big enough to store all of these animals and all of this food and water for over a year?
The dimensions for the ark given in Genesis are 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high (Genesis 6:15). What is a cubit? A cubit is an ancient unit of measurement, the length of the forearm from the elbow to the longest finger (the term “cubit” comes from the Latin word “cubitum” which means “elbow.” The Hebrew word for “cubit” is “ammah.” As everybody’s arms are different lengths, this unit may seem a bit ambiguous to some, but scholars generally agree that it represents somewhere between 17 and 22 inches (43-56 centimeters). The ancient Egyptian cubit is known to have been 21.888 inches. So, doing the math,
300 x 22 inches = 6,600; 50 x 22 inches = 1,100; 30 x 22 inches = 660
6,600/12 = 550 feet; 1100/12 = 91.7 feet; 660/12 = 55 feet.
Thus, the ark could have been up to 550 feet long, 91.7 feet wide and 55 feet high. These are not unreasonable dimensions. But how much storage space does this amount to? Well, 550 x 91.7 x 55 = 2,773,925 cubic feet. (If we take the smallest measurement of cubit, 17 inches, we end up with 1,278,825 cubic feet). Of course, not all of it would have been free space. The ark had three levels (Genesis 6:16) and a lot of rooms (Genesis 6:14), the walls of which would have taken up space. Nevertheless, it has been calculated that a little more than half (54.75%) of the 2,773,925 cubic feet could store 125,000 sheep-sized animals, leaving over 1.5 million cubic feet of free space (see - The Institute for Creation Research).
John Woodmorappe, author of the definitive Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study, estimated that only about 15% of the animals on the ark would have been larger than a sheep. This figure does not take into account the possibility that God may have brought Noah “infant” animals, which can be significantly smaller than adult animals.
How many animals were on the ark? Woodmorappe estimates about 16,000 “kinds.” What is a “kind”? The designation of “kind” is thought to be much broader than the designation “species.” Even as there are over 400 dog breeds all belonging to one species (Canis familiaris), so many species can belong to one kind. Some think that the designation “genus” may be somewhat close to the biblical “kind.”
Nevertheless, even if we presume that “kind” is synonymous with “species,” “there are not very many species of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. The leading systematic biologist, Ernst Mayr, gives the number as 17,600. Allowing for two of each species on the ark, plus seven of the few so-called “clean” kinds of animals, plus a reasonable increment for known extinct species, it is obvious that not more than, say, 50,000 animals were on the ark” (Morris, 1987).
Some have estimated that there were as many as 25,000 kinds of animals represented on the ark. This is a high-end estimation. With two of each kind and seven of some, the number of animals would exceed 50,000, though not by very much, relatively speaking. Regardless, whether there were 16,000 or 25,000 kinds of animals, even with two of each and seven of some, scholars agree that there was plenty of room for all of the animals on the ark, plus food and water with room to spare.
What about all of the excrement produced by all of these animals? How did 8 people manage to feed all of those animals and deal with tons of excrement on a daily basis? What about animals with specialized diet? How did plant-life survive? What about insects? There are a thousand other questions like these which could be raised, and they are all good questions. In the minds of many, these questions are unanswerable. But they are certainly nothing new. They have been asked over and over for centuries. And in all of that time researchers have sought answers. There are now numerous, very scholarly feasibility studies which have put Noah and his ark to the test.
With over 1,200 scholarly references to academic studies, Woodmorappe’s book is “a modern systematic evaluation of the alleged difficulties surrounding Noah’s Ark” (John Woodmorappe, “A Resource for Answering the Critics of Noah’s Ark,” Impact No. 273, March 1996. Institute for Creation Research, 30 January 2005 http://www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-273.htm). Woodmorappe claims that after years of systematically examining all of the questions which have been raised, “all of the arguments against the Ark are… found wanting. In fact, the vast majority of the anti-Ark arguments, at first superficially plausible, turn out to be easily invalidated.”
Yes, biologists have identified about 1.4 million species. There are surely other species not yet identified and cataloged, but estimates vary widely on how many. I’ve seen estimates for total number of species ranging from less than 2 million to over 100 million.
But the majority of species are microscopic. By definition, microscopic creatures would not take up any measurable amount of space on the ark. They would have just been carried along in or on the larger creatures.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature – no indication they’re a Christian or creationist group, they’re environmentalists – estimates there are 1.3 million non-microscopic creatures in the world. You can get similar numbers in many places. Anyway, 1.3 million, still a lot. But 1,000,000 of those are insects and another 102,000 are arachnids, which don’t take much space. 31,000 are fish. The salt-water fish, at least, would not have had to be carried on the ark: Noah didn’t need to build fish tanks. Another 85,000 are mollusks, most of which are sea creatures. The only creatures Noah would have had to worry about are what’s left: 5,490 species of mammals, 9,998 birds, 9,084 reptiles, and 6,433 amphibians. That makes 31,005 species. (See International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, Gland, Switzerland, 2010, Table 1.) (And by the way, I’m just using them as a convenient source. You can find similar numbers from other sources.)
As others have noted, Genesis says Noah brought 2 of each “kind”, not 2 of each “species”. A baramin (kind) is usually broader than a species. So 31,000 is pretty much the upper limit.
So Noah would have had to bring 31,005 x 2 = 62,010 animals. (Okay, a little more for the creatures that he brought 7 pairs.) There are and were certainly some large animals in the world --hippos and elephants and allosauruses and so forth – but most species are much smaller than this. The average animal weighs about 100 grams, about the size of a large rat.
John Woodmorape wrote a book called “Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study” in which he devotes considerable space to calculations on how much space would be required. He comes up with a total of 15,754 animals. (i.e. he’s counting baramin and not species.) He then estimates space requirements by using the amount of space given to animals in laboratories and factory farms. He makes the argument – a valid one, I think – that this is a good “middle number”. Using the space given when transporting animals in trucks, train, or plains would be too small: such trips tend to be short, so the animals don’t need a lot of room. But using space given in zoos would be too large: Zoos are meant to be comforable, and the environments are as much to entertain the visitors as to be pleasant for the animals. The Ark voyage was not a pleasure cruise. So anyway, using figures for space in labs and factory farms, he came up with a total space requirement of 4,300 square meters. That is less than half the floor space on the ark if built to the dimensions in Genesis. That’s a high number, because it assumes all cages sit on the floor, but surely Noah could have stacked the cages of the smaller animals.
Woodmorape goes on to calculate that food for the voyage would have taken another 6 to 12% of the available space. If they had to bring along enough water for the entire voyage, that’s another 9%. (In real life they could likely have captured rain water to meet at least some of their needs.)
So, as I say in my book, all the animals plus the food and water would have taken up about 2 of the ark’s 3 decks. That leaves the other deck for quarters for Noah and his family, room for extinct animals unknown to us today, the dance floor, casino, and karaoke bar.