List of longest-living organisms

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This is a list of the oldest individual lifeforms. This is usually defined as:

Biological immortality[edit]

If the mortality rate of a species does not increase after maturity, the species does not age and is said to be biologically immortal. There are many examples of plants and animals for which the mortality rate actually decreases with age, for all or part of the life cycle.[1]

If the mortality rate remains constant, the rate determines the mean lifespan. The lifespan can be long or short, even though the species technically "does not age".

  • Hydras were observed, in a study published in the journal Experimental Gerontology, for four years without any increase in mortality rate.[2]

Other species have been observed to regress to a larval state and regrow back into adults multiple times.

  • The Hydrozoan species Turritopsis dohrnii is capable of cycling from a mature adult stage to an immature polyp stage and back again. This means that there may be no natural limit to its life span.[3] However, no single specimen has been observed for any extended period, and it is impossible to estimate the age of a specimen.
  • The larvae of carrion beetles have evolved to undergo a degree of "reversed development" when starved, and later to grow back to the previously attained level of maturity. The cycle can be repeated many times.[4]

Revived into activity after stasis[edit]

  • Various claims have been made about reviving bacterial spores to active metabolism after millions of years. There are claims of spores from amber being revived after 40 million years,[5] and spores from salt deposits in New Mexico being revived after 240 million years. These claims have been made by credible researchers, but are not universally accepted.[6][7] In a related find, a scientist was able to coax 34,000 year old salt-captured bacteria to reproduce and his results were duplicated at a separate independent laboratory facility.[8]
  • A seed from the previously extinct Judean date palm was revived and managed to sprout after nearly 2,000 years.[9]
  • Silene stenophylla was grown from fruit found in an ancient squirrel's cache. The germinated plants bore viable seeds. The fruit was dated to be 31,800 years old ± 300 years.[10]
  • In 1994, a seed from a sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), dated at roughly 1,300 years old ± 270 years, was successfully germinated.[11][12]

Clonal plant colonies[edit]

As with all long-lived plant and fungal species, no individual part of a clonal colony is alive (in the sense of active metabolism) for more than a very small fraction of the life of the entire colony. Some clonal colonies may be fully connected via their root systems, while most are not actually interconnected, but are genetically identical clones which populated an area through vegetative reproduction. Ages for clonal colonies, often based on current growth rates, are estimates.[13]

  • Pando is a Populus tremuloides (Quaking Aspen) tree or clonal colony that has been estimated at 80,000 years old.[14] Unlike many other clonal "colonies" the above ground trunks remain connected to each other via a single massive underground root system. Whether it is to be considered a single tree is disputed, as it depends on one's definition of an individual tree.
  • The Jurupa Oak colony is estimated to be at least 13,000 years of age, with other estimates ranging from 5,000 to 30,000 years.
  • A huge colony of the sea grass Posidonia oceanica in the Mediterranean Sea is estimated to be between 12,000 and 200,000 years old. The maximum age is theoretical, as the region it occupies was above water at some point between 10,000 and 80,000 years ago.[15][16][17]
  • King's Lomatia in Tasmania: The sole surviving clonal colony of this species is estimated to be at least 43,600 years old.[18]
  • Eucalyptus recurva: clones in Australia are claimed to be 13,000 years old.[19]
  • King Clone is a creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) in the Mojave desert estimated at 11,700 years old.[20] Another creosote bush has been said to be 12,150 years old, but this is as yet unconfirmed.
  • A Huon Pine colony on Mount Read, Tasmania is estimated at 10,000 years old, with individual specimens living to over 3,000 years.[21]
  • Old Tjikko, a Norway Spruce in Sweden, is a tree on top of roots that have been carbon dated to 9,550 years old. The tree is part of a clonal colony that was established at the end of the last ice age. Discovered by Professor Leif Kullman, at Umeå University, the tree is located in the county of Dalarna in Sweden. Old Tjikko is small, only 5 metres (16 ft) in height.[22][23][24][25]
  • A box huckleberry bush in Pennsylvania is thought to be perhaps 8,000 years of age.
  • An individual of the fungus species Armillaria solidipes in the Malheur National Forest is thought to be between 2,000 and 8,500 years old.[26][27] It is thought to be the world's largest organism by area, at 2,384 acres (965 hectares).

Individual micro-organisms[edit]

Some endoliths have extremely long lives. In August 2013 researchers reported evidence of endoliths in the ocean floor with a generation time of 10,000 years.[28] These are slowly metabolizing, not in a dormant state.

Individual plant specimens[edit]

Terrestrial animals[edit]

  • Adwaita, an Aldabra Giant Tortoise died at an estimated age of 250 in March 2006 in Alipore Zoo, Kolkata, India.[36] If verified, it will have been the oldest terrestrial animal in the world.
  • The tuatara can live well above 100 years. Henry, a tuatara at the Southland Museum in New Zealand, mated for the first time at the age of 111 years in 2009 with an 80-year-old female and fathered 11 baby tuatara.[37]
  • Tu'i Malila, a Radiated tortoise, died at an age of 188 years in May 1965, at the time the oldest verified vertebrate.[38]
  • Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise living on the island of Saint Helena, is reported to be about 182 years old, and may therefore be the oldest currently living terrestrial animal if the claim is true.[39]
  • Harriet, a Galápagos tortoise, died at the age of 175 years in June 2006.[40]
  • Timothy, a Greek Tortoise, died at an age of 160 years in April 2004.[41]
  • The oldest living human was Jeanne Calment from France, who died at the age of 122 years, 164 days.[42]
  • A female Blue-and-yellow Macaw named Charlie was reportedly hatched in 1899, which would make her 111 years old, as of 2010. Her age has not been independently confirmed and the claim may not be reliable. She is claimed to have formerly belonged to Winston Churchill, but Churchill's daughter denies the claim.[43]
  • Lin Wang, an Asian elephant was the oldest elephant in the Taipei Zoo. He was born in 1917 and died in February 2003 at age 86, surpassing the previous record of 84. Normally elephants live up to 50, while their maximum lifespan is generally estimated at 70.
  • A Greater Flamingo named Greater died at Adelaide Zoo in January 2014 at the age of at least 83.[44]
  • Thaao, the Andean condor died at the age of 80.[45]
  • Cookie, a Major Mitchell's Cockatoo resident at Brookfield Zoo, Illinois, US is the oldest member of his species in captivity, at a verified age of 81.
  • A female Laysan Albatross named Wisdom successfully hatched a chick at Midway Atoll in February 2014, at the age of 63. As of 2014, she is the oldest known wild bird in the world.[46]
  • The oldest living horse on record was named Ol' Billy. Bill was allegedly born in the year 1760 in London, England. Bill died in 1822 at the age of 62. Henry Harrison, an occupant of London during the time, had also allegedly known Ol' Billy for 59 years until Bill's death.[47]
  • Creme Puff, a cat owned by Jake Perry of Austin, Texas, was born on 3 August 1967 and died on 6 August 2005 - a total of 38 years and 3 days.[48]
  • Debby was the oldest polar bear on record when she died in 2008, at the age of 42.[49]

Aquatic animals[edit]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Rachel Sussman (2014). The Oldest Living Things in the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226057507. 

References[edit]

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