Wildlife

6 of the World’s Longest-Lived Animals

Adelaide Zoo's oldest resident, 83-year old the Greater Flamingo, affectionately known as 'Greater'.
Greater, the 83-year-old flamingo that lived at Australia’s Adelaide Zoo. Photograph by Nicole Miller/Adelaide Zoo/EPA

 

The world’s oldest flamingo flew to that great big aviary in the sky last week. Greater, as it was known, was the most famous flamingo in Australia’s Adelaide Zoo when it was put to sleep at age 83.

The bird was suffering from severe arthritis and was nearly blind; zookeepers decided that putting Greater down was the most humane thing they could do.

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 8.47.32 AMMost of us are impressed when our pets live merely into the low double digits. But there are creatures out there that put in some serious time on Earth, especially compared with us humans. Some sea sponges last more than 1,500 years. (See also “How Old Is That Lion? A Guide to Aging Animals.”)

Herewith, six of the most famously long-lived individual animals:

1. Dynastic Clam

You may have heard of Ming, the deep-sea clam named after the Chinese dynasty during which it was born. When it died in 2006, it was believed to be the oldest living animal ever recorded.

This ocean quahog, scientifically known as Arctica islandica, lived for 507 years and came to an inglorious end.

In 2006, scientists accidentally killed the clam when they dredged it up off the coast of Iceland and froze it, along with many others, for transport back to the lab for climate change research.

There may be older specimens out there hiding in the mud, but Ming was the lucky one that won postmortem fame.

2. Great-Great-Grand Whale

A bowhead whale was 130 years old when it died in 2007. Eskimos harvested the whale that year during a subsistence hunt monitored by the International Whaling Commission.

Scientists were able to estimate its age because the animal had carried a harpoon point in its neck for more than a hundred years. Experts dated the weapon to a New England factory active around 1880.

Scientists believe bowhead whales have the capacity to live about 200 years in part due to their slow metabolism—an adaptation to an icy-cold but food-rich Arctic environment.

3. Golden Oldie Fish

It might just be legend, but a koi goldfish named Hanako that passed on in 1977 was said to be the ripe old age of 226. Fish scales can be read like tree rings, which is how the estimate would have come about.

These ornamental pets are prized in Asia, and the highest-quality koi can cost thousands of dollars. Normally the fish live about 47 years.

4. Bird Named Wisdom

An albatross named Wisdom may be the oldest mom in the bird world. In 2012, at the age of 62, she hatched a new chick, possibly her 35th, and she’s still going strong in the Midway Atoll Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific.

Other avian elders include an 82-year-old Siberian white crane, captive parrots that can live into their 80s, and flamingos. Don’t forget flamingos!

5. Slow and Steady

Giant tortoises are famously long-lived: Thomas, the oldest ever known in Britain, died last year at age 130 after a rat bite on its leg got infected.

But there have been older known tortoises.

Tu’i Malila of Tonga Island passed away at 188, while Adwaita in India was at least 150—possibly as old as 250—when he died in 2006. The Galápagos tortoise Harriet, known as “Darwin’s tortoise,” survived to around age 176. She passed away in 2006 at the Australia Zoo in Queensland.

6. Immortal Jellies

Although I can’t point to an old individual named Gus or Penelope (both great handles for marine creatures, no?), it would be a shame to leave out the species Turritopsis dohrnii, a jellyfish discovered in the Mediterranean in the 1880s that never truly dies.

Instead, this jellyfish recycles itself, “aging” backward from adult stage to an immature polyp stage over and over again. Hanging out with T. dohrnii may just be the closest we humans ever come to immortality. (See more pictures of aging beasts.)

Follow Jennifer S. Holland on Twitter.

 

Degrees in English and Conservation Biology Contributing Writer, National Geographic magazine Regular Contributor, NG News Author of bestselling books Unlikely Friendships (2011) and Unlikely Loves (2013)
  • Joseph

    I enjoyed this article very much, Jennifer Holland. It’s a coincidence that I’m learning about Cnidarians in Zoology now, and this girl in my class brought up this “Immortal Jellyfish” today in class. My teacher was unsure but knew what she was referring too.

  • So glad you enjoyed it! The ‘immortal jellyfish” is fascinating!

  • Dee Feldman

    WOW! ! AMAZING THEY LIVE THAT LONG!!!

  • matana

    I think my dog was one of the oldest dogs ever she was 14 and she passed away last year in 2013

  • Scotty.licious

    Makes me think that there is probably older clams than Ming out there, maybe she was in the wrong place at the wrong time but possibly there are clams older than her out there.

  • albertus faasen

    I just love all the info. Thanks . This is really just testing to see
    whether i am getting it right . My dream is to have one of my photos published wherever possible .

  • shehuteejan

    There still exist a living tortoise of over 300 years in OGBOMOSO, OYO STATE OF NIGERIA.

  • mukul

    omg awesome

  • Myrna White

    I am caring for a female toy poodle who is 22 years old. She is blind from cataracts and deaf. She is crippled with arthritis but knows what to do when you set her outside, and eats when you set her by her food. She has good controlof her bodily functions. As long as she doesn’t seem to be in severe pain, I will continue to care for her.

  • Agbo Francis

    Please,I want to know about the (Gigantosaurus)

  • Darren

    I heard recently that some black coral in Hawaii was dated to some 4,500yrs… can anyone substantiate that?

  • Jennifer Holland

    From the article author: Good comment about the coral–that’s true! USGS was able to confirm the age of black coral living in Mexico as over 2,000 years old. Amazing stuff. It’s not even very big, just VERY slow growing. Thanks for the additional example!

  • seth heinz

    cool

  • Shantanu Chowdhury

    Sir/Madam,

    I want to work in your channel.. i like traveling in the forest.
    my no is +91 9903787938

  • Tanmay Sharma

    Interesting piece of article. Wonder how could they live for so long?

  • Michael

    Have you checked the Tortoise in Ogbomoso , Oyo State , Nigeria?

  • Jennifer Holland

    I have read stories about a number of very old tortoises out there from different parts of the world–including that one in Nigeria. I have no doubt they are some of the most elderly animals around.

  • Katlego Monamodi

    It is Amazing how these animals can live that long, they even outlive humans at average. I wish to have a biological explanation, one involving words like “Metabolism”, “Metabolic rate” and “Body Size”

  • Charmaine Pompey

    What a G8T Article never realised that some creatures could live so long, thanks 4 the amazing Info.

  • Jovana

    Love this article. Thanks for sharing.

  • Frans

    Sheez, And I thought the oldest living animal was my mother-in-law!

  • JC KITE

    Just think humans were meant to forever but Adam & eve ruined it so the bible says and they chose to listen to Satan using a snake as a puppet and mouth piece (he’s a spirit creature)who told them they would not die but become like God “just saying” it’s a simple explanation the creator owes us nothing more even a child can read the Genesis account no fancy words

  • JC KITE

    Just think humans were meant to live forever but Adam & eve ruined it so the bible says and they chose to listen to Satan using a snake as a puppet and mouth piece (he’s a spirit creature)who told them they would not die but become like God “just saying” it’s a simple explanation the creator owes us nothing more even a child can read the Genesis account no fancy words

  • Stvn

    I have heard & source is indian vedic knowledge : the longer the animal lives the slower (lower) is the rate of breath i.e number of breathing cycle per minute .

  • aarin

    i love to read about animals

  • aarin

    Sir/Madam,

    Have you checked the Tortoise in Ogbomoso , Oyo State , Nigeria?
    I heard recently that some black coral in Hawaii was dated to some 4,500yrs… can anyone substantiate that?
    SO WOW! ! AMAZING THEY LIVE THAT LONG!!!

  • Awile Sam

    Who had ever lived for many years?

  • Awile Sam

    Which insects has the largest number in the world?

  • you wish jelly fish

    I just want to point out that the end of your article you say the jellyfish ‘that never truly dies.’ But of course they do, they get eaten, they get washed up on beaches, and afaik they also die of old age because (once again im not a marine biologist but afaik) they only revert to the pullup stage if the conditions are right, and under normal circumstances they most likely will either live a normal life without reverting over and over, or will die young being eaten or washed up, or maybe even disease’s, pollution etc

  • you wish jelly fish

    It is also funny the national geo article you have linked to only says that it is ‘potentially’ immortal, certainly NOT that it is indeed immortal ….

    As I said and the article sums up nicely that they ONLY will revert ‘ as an emergency measure’..

  • Fabio

    A sulphur crested cockatoo name Bennett was reported to live 120 years: source http://m.smh.com.au/environment/animals/sydneys-old-crock-of-a-cockie-was-a-legend-at-120-20110831-1jkz2.html

  • Clement

    I luv this animal

  • Ali

    It’s really amazing to read about a creature that actually never dies !

  • steven

    i like how the jellyfish lives for ever

  • Max

    If only they could talk

  • Damienboi

    the tortoise in ogbomoso Oyo state is the oldest animal in earth.search and confirm it

  • manohar

    what should i study to become a paleontologist?

  • manohar

    which big cat lives for the most time and what is the biggest carnivore that ever lived?

  • Cherokee

    You mean that jellyfish never dies of old age.
    Surely it could die of injury or something.

  • Meeoknaw

    poor clam. whats wrong with you people? the clam would have lived to 1 thousand if left the clam be! you killed a clam so you could study it. an “accident”? oh please. never would have happened if you left the clam be!

  • Charger

    The world’s oldest dog is named Bluey (Australian Cattle Dog) he lived to 29 years and 5 months & the world’s oldest cat named Creme Puff lived to be 38 years and 3 days.

  • Adria sorensen

    What happens to the jellyfish when earth reaches the end of its life span and explodes…or something? Can jellyfish survive floating in space or through a star death catastrophe that results in exploding this planet to smithereens?

  • John Lindsey

    With the passing of all of my loving animals it has brought me to realize just how short of lives they live. My loving Dog Petie passed away a couple of years ago after a short 13 years on this earth. He brought to me a walking companion, swimming, Christmas present ripping, sleeping partner, and when he took his last breath part of me was gone forever, I will never ever forget his love. I was fooled by my family of three women when I returned from a boating trip and said they found this puppy in the front yard! I said no dogs, we had cats, but I gave in, but a week later the pet store owner came into my business and asked me how I liked my new puppy! What? They fooled me, but let me tell you how I cried and my wife and daughter did for a solid week when we lost him after 13 short years. I now have Sophie, she has take over for my walking, sleeping, car riding partner, she gets right up on my leather chair and settles in, follows me everywhere, and sits by the door when I am gone waiting my return. Anyone that has never known the love a beautiful animal can bring is surely missing a great joy!

  • foxy brown

    your beliefes suck i wish that there was more info i truly ment dinasour realater animals so your wrong

  • cody

    There surely must be a way to cross the jellyfishes regenerating cell into the human genetics. I mean, a cell is a cell.

  • Fatai Yisau A.

    There is a tortoise here in Nigeria that’s about 325yrs old at Ogbomoso,oyo state, Nigeria..

  • David Guevara

    Have you ever thought that if we were immortal and our mind can hold infinite amount of information what would hapen.

  • Brad

    Welcome to amateur hour!

  • Jeremy

    Reply to Fatai Yisau A.: That tortoise is probably not more than 100 years old. That’s an urban legend that it’s over 325 years old.

  • Scarlet

    I think it is so cool to know that an animal could live so long! WOW

  • Anonymous Person

    There are clams that can live longer than any human can (at least right now). I sort of can’t believe something so small and ordinary can live so long.

  • Bobo

    To Cherokee; believe it or not, we put a jellyfish into a vat of nitric acid, and held a blowtorch to it for twenty minutes, and it lives to this day.

  • Derek Sevier

    I am surprised this article didn’t include the Greenland sharks which can go almost 400 years old. It is amazing to see how a 15 ft animal to live this long!

  • Thomas Phillips

    You forgot to mention the Greenland shark!

  • matthew

    the oldest one is a emortol jellyfish

  • Lynne Rouster

    I think it is very fascinating that all f these animals can live so long.

  • Bazbooz Drat

    Turrles is exhibit a strange behavior when 3 males are put together with one female. The trick is to have the female be older than all three male ones. When they kept alone for a period that exceeds 90 minutes, the males start dancing and mating while the female watches and only then she picks the male that she intends to get with and mate. Male turtles perform anal mating because they are all male and the female would be incredibly lucky to become the main ramming target.

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