List of longest-living organisms

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This is a list of the longest-living organisms that is, the individuals (in some instances, clones) of a species. This may be, for a given species

  1. Oldest known individuals that are currently living
  2. Record holders, such as the most long-lived human, Jeanne Calment, or the most long-lived cat, Creme Puff

Ordinarily, this does not consider the age of the species itself, comparing species by the range of age-span of their individuals, or the time between first appearance (speciation) and extinction of the species.

Biological immortality[edit]

Hydras may not grow old.

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

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

  • Hydra species were observed for four years without any increase in mortality rate.[2]

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

  • The hydrozoan species Turritopsis dohrnii (formerly Turritopsis nutricula) is capable of cycling from a mature adult stage to an immature polyp stage and back again. This means no natural limit to its lifespan is known.[3] However, no single specimen has been observed for any extended period, and estimating the age of a specimen is impossible.
  • At least one hydrozoan (Laodicea undulata[4]) and one scyphozoan (Aurelia sp.1[5]) can also revert from medusa stage into polyp stage.
  • The larvae of skin beetles undergo a degree of "reversed development" when starved, and later grow back to the previously attained level of maturity. The cycle can be repeated many times.[6]

Revived into activity after stasis[edit]

This Judean Date Palm sprouted from a 2,000-year-old seed.
  • Various claims have been made about reviving bacterial spores to active metabolism after millions of years. Claims have been made of spores from amber being revived after 40 million years,[7] and spores from salt deposits in New Mexico being revived after 240 million years.[8][9] In a related find, a scientist was able to coax 34,000-year-old salt-captured bacteria to reproduce. His results were duplicated at a separate independent laboratory facility.[10]
  • A seed from the previously extinct Judean date palm was revived and managed to sprout after nearly 2,000 years.[11]
  • 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.[12]
  • In 1994, a seed from a sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), dated at roughly 1,300 years old ± 270 years, was successfully germinated.[13][14]
  • During the 1990s, Raul Cano, a microbiologist at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, revived yeast trapped in amber for 25 million years.[15] Cano went on to found a brewery and crafted an "amber ale" with a 45-million-year-old variant of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.[16] Cano's work and initial success were achieved with the help of entomologist George Poinar, the scientist whose 1982 paper on reviving specimens[17] influenced Michael Crichton to write his award winning Jurassic Park.[18]

Clonal plant and fungal colonies[edit]

Pando is a clonal colony of quaking aspens that is at least 80,000 years old.

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.[19]

  • Pando is a Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen) tree or clonal colony that has been estimated at 80,000 years old.[20] Unlike many other clonal "colonies", the above-ground trunks remain connected to each other by a single massive subterranean 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 old, with other estimates ranging from 5,000 to 30,000 years old.[21]
  • 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.[22][23][24]
  • Lomatia tasmanica in Tasmania: the sole surviving clonal colony of this species is estimated to be at least 43,600 years old.[25]
  • Eucalyptus recurva: clones in Australia are claimed to be 13,000 years old.[26]
  • King Clone is a creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) in the Mojave Desert estimated at 11,700 years old.[27] 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 over 3,000 years.[28]
  • 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 m (16 ft) in height.[29][30][31][32]
  • A box huckleberry bush in Pennsylvania is thought to be perhaps 8,000 years old.
  • "Humongous Fungus", an individual of the fungal species Armillaria solidipes in the Malheur National Forest, is thought to be between 2,000 and 8,500 years old.[33][34] It is thought to be the world's largest organism by area, at 2,384 acres (965 hectares).

Individual microorganisms[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 millennia.[35] These are slowly metabolizing, not in a dormant state.

Individual plant specimens[edit]

The Llangernyw Yew may be the oldest tree in Europe.


Life expectancy by region
  • Jeanne Calment lived to the age of 122 years, 164 days, becoming the oldest recorded human who ever lived. She died on August 4, 1997.[43]
  • The longest-living person who is still living and known is Emma Morano (born November 29, 1899).[44]

These are single examples; for a broader view, see Life expectancy (includes humans).

Other terrestrial and pagophilic animals[edit]

Muja, the world's oldest alligator
  • Muja, an American alligator from Belgrade Zoo, is considered to be the oldest alligator in the world.[52] Muja is more than 80 years old.[53]
  • A female blue-and-yellow macaw named Charlie was reportedly hatched in 1899, which would make her 117 years old, as of 2016. 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.[54]
  • Lin Wang, an Asian elephant, was the oldest elephant in the Taipei Zoo. He was born in January 18, 1917, and died in February 26, 2003, at 86 years, surpassing the previous record of 84. Normally, elephants live up to 50 years, 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.[55]
  • Thaao, an Andean condor, died at the age of 80.[56]
  • Cookie, (hatched June 30, 1933) an Australian-born Major Mitchell's cockatoo resident at Brookfield Zoo, Illinois, was the oldest member of his species in captivity, and died in August 2016 at a verified age of 83.[57]
  • 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.[58]
  • 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 years. Henry Harrison, an occupant of London during the time, had also allegedly known Ol' Billy for 59 years until Bill's death.[59]
  • Creme Puff, a cat owned by Jake Perry of Austin, Texas, was born August 3, 1967, and died three days after her 38th birthday on August 6, 2005.[60]
  • The oldest bear on record was Andreas, a European brown bear, living in the ARCTUROS bear sanctuary in northern Greece. He was at least 50 years old at the time of his death.
  • Debby, the polar bear, an inhabitant of the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, Canada, was the oldest polar bear and third-oldest bear species on record when she died in 2008, at the age of 42 years.[61]
  • A black rhino, called "Elly" could be the oldest at 45 years of age, and resides in San Francisco, California, at the San Francisco Zoo.

Aquatic animals[edit]

Giant barrel sponges can live more than 2,000 years.
  • Some species of sponges in the ocean near Antarctica are thought to be 10 millennia old.[62]
  • Specimens of the black coral genus Leiopathes (es) are among the oldest continuously living organisms on the planet: around 4,265 years old.[63]
  • The giant barrel sponge Xestospongia muta is one of the longest-lived animals, with the largest specimens in the Caribbean estimated to be in excess of 2,300 years old.[64]
  • The black coral Antipatharia in the Gulf of Mexico may live more than 2,000 years.[65]
  • The Antarctic sponge Cinachyra antarctica has an extremely slow growth rate in the low temperatures of the Southern Ocean. One specimen has been estimated to be 1,550 years old.[66]
  • A specimen, "Ming" of the Icelandic cyprine Arctica islandica (also known as an ocean quahog), a mollusk, was found to have lived 507 years.[67] Another specimen had a recorded lifespan of 374 years.[68]
  • Greenland shark has earlier been estimated to live to about 200 years, but a recent study found that a 5.02 m (16.5 ft) specimen was 392 ± 120 years old, resulting in a minimum age of 272 and a maximum of 512.[69][70] That makes the Greenland shark the longest-lived vertebrate.
  • Some koi fish have reportedly lived more than 200 years, the oldest being Hanako, which died at an age of 226 years on July 7, 1977.[71][72]
  • Rougheye rockfish - 205 years old.[73]
  • Orange roughy, also known as deep sea perch, can live up to 149 years.[74]
  • Some confirmed sources estimate bowhead whales to have lived at least to 211 years of age, making them the oldest mammals.[75]
  • The maximum life-span of the freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) may be 210–250 years.[76][77][78]
  • Specimens of the Red Sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus franciscanus, have been found to be over 200 years old.[79]
  • The deepsea hydrocarbon seep tubeworm Lamellibrachia luymesi (Annelida, Polychaeta) lives for more than 170 years.[80]
  • Tardigrades, capable of cryptobiosis, have been shown to survive nearly 120 years in a dry state.[81]
  • Geoduck, a species of saltwater clam native to the Puget Sound, have been known to live more than 160 years.[82][83]
  • George the lobster was estimated to be about 140 years old by PETA in January 2009.[84]
  • In 2012, a sturgeon was caught in a Wisconsin river that was estimated to be 125 years old.[85]
  • A killer whale of the "Southern Resident Community" identified as J-2 or Granny is estimated to be the oldest orca in the entire community and is 105 years old, as of 2016.
  • A Swedish man claimed that a European eel named Ale was 155 years old when it died in 2014. If correct, it would have been the world's oldest, having been hatched in 1859.[86]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

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


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External links[edit]