List of longest-living organisms
This is a list of the longest-living biological organisms: the individual(s) (or in some instances, clones) of a species with the longest natural maximum lifespans. For a given species, such a designation may include:
- The oldest known individual(s) that are currently alive, with verified ages.
- Verified individual record holders, such as the longest-lived human, Jeanne Louise Calment, or the longest-lived domestic cat, Creme Puff.
The definition of "longest-living" used in this article considers only the observed or estimated length of an individual organism's natural lifespan – that is, the duration of time between its birth or conception, or the earliest emergence of its identity as an individual organism, and its death – and does not consider other conceivable interpretations of "longest-living", such as the length of time between the earliest appearance of a species in the fossil record and the present (the historical "age" of the species as a whole), the time between a species' first speciation and its extinction (the phylogenetic "lifespan" of the species), or the range of possible lifespans of a species' individuals. This list includes long-lived organisms that are currently still alive as well as those that are dead.
Determining the length of an organism's natural lifespan is complicated by many problems of definition and interpretation, as well as by practical difficulties in reliably measuring age, particularly for extremely old organisms and for those that reproduce by asexual cloning. In many cases, the ages listed below are estimates based on observed present-day growth rates, which may differ significantly from the growth rates experienced thousands of years ago. Identifying the longest-living organisms also depends on defining what constitutes an "individual" organism, which can be problematic, since many asexual organisms and clonal colonies defy one or both of the traditional colloquial definitions of individuality (having a distinct genotype and having an independent, physically separate body). Additionally, some organisms maintain the capability to reproduce through very long periods of metabolic dormancy, during which they may not be considered "alive" by certain definitions but nonetheless can resume normal metabolism afterward; it is unclear whether the dormant periods should be counted as part of the organism's lifespan.
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 numerous plants and animals for which the mortality rate has been observed to actually decrease with age, for all or part of the life cycle. Hydra species were observed for four years without any increase in mortality rate. If the mortality rate remains constant, the rate determines the mean lifespan. The lifespan may be long or short, though the species technically does not "age".
Individuals of 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. However, no single specimen has been observed for any extended period, and estimating the age of a specimen is not possible by any known means. At least one other hydrozoan (Laodicea undulata) and one scyphozoan (Aurelia sp.1) can also revert from a medusa stage into a polyp stage.
Similarly, the larvae of skin beetles undergo a degree of "reversed development" when starved, and later grow back to the previously attained level of maturity. This cycle can be repeated many times.
Revived into activity after stasis
If the definition of lifespan does not exclude time spent in metabolically inactive states, many organisms may be said to have lifespans that are millions of years in length. Various claims have been made about reviving bacterial spores to active metabolism after millions of years of dormancy. Spores preserved in amber have been revived after 40 million years, and spores from salt deposits in New Mexico have been revived after 250 million years, making these bacteria by far the longest-living organisms ever recorded. In a related find, a scientist was able to coax 34,000-year-old salt-captured bacteria to reproduce. These results were subsequently duplicated independently.
In July 2018, scientists from four Russian institutions collaborating with Princeton University reported that they had analyzed about 300 prehistoric nematode worms recovered from permafrost above the Arctic Circle in Sakha Republic, and that after being thawed, two of the nematodes revived and began moving and eating. One found in a Pleistocene squirrel burrow in the Duvanny Yar outcrop on the Kolyma River was believed to be about 32,000 years old, while the other, recovered in 2015 near the Alazeya River, was dated at approximately 30,000-40,000 years old. These nematodes were believed to be the oldest living multicellular animals on Earth.
Like bacterial spores, plant seeds are often capable of germinating after very long periods of metabolic inactivity. A seed from the previously extinct Judean date palm was revived and managed to sprout after nearly 2,000 years. Named "Methuselah", it is currently growing at Kibbutz Keturah, Israel. Similarly, Silene stenophylla was grown from fruit found in an ancient squirrel's cache. The germinated plants bore viable seeds. The fruit was dated at 31,800 ± 300 years old. In 1994, a seed from a sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), dated at roughly 1,300 ± 270 years old, was successfully germinated.
During the 1990s, Raul Cano, a microbiologist at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, US, reported reviving yeast trapped in amber for 25 million years, although doubts were raised as to its antiquity. Cano founded a brewery and crafted an "amber ale" with a 45-million-year-old variant of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
List of longest-living organisms
Some endoliths have extremely long lives. In August 2013, researchers reported evidence of endoliths in the ocean floor, perhaps millions of years old, with a generation time of 10,000 years. These are slowly metabolizing and not in a dormant state. Some Actinobacteria found in Siberia are estimated to be half a million years old. In July 2020, marine biologists reported that aerobic microorganisms (mainly), in "quasi-suspended animation", were found in organically-poor sediments, up to 101.5 million years old, 250 feet below the seafloor in the South Pacific Gyre (SPG) ("the deadest spot in the ocean"), and could be the longest-living life forms ever found.
Clonal plant and fungal colonies
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 nonetheless genetically identical clones which populated an area through vegetative reproduction. Ages for clonal colonies are estimates, often based on current growth rates.
- A huge colony of the sea grass Posidonia oceanica in the Mediterranean Sea near Ibiza, Spain, is estimated to be between 12,000 and 200,000 years old. The maximum age is theoretical, as the region it now occupies was above water at some point between 10,000 and 80,000 years ago.
- Pando is a clonal colony of Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen) trees in south-central Utah, United States, that has been estimated at 80,000 years old. Unlike many other clonal "colonies", the above-ground trunks of these trees remain connected to each other by a single massive subterranean root system.
- The sole surviving clonal colony of Lomatia tasmanica in Tasmania is estimated to be at least 43,600 years old.
- The Jurupa Oak colony in Riverside County, California, United States, is estimated to be at least 13,000 years old. Other estimates place it at 5,000 to 30,000 years old.
- Eucalyptus recurva clones in Australia have been claimed to be 13,000 years old.
- A box huckleberry bush in Perry County, Pennsylvania, United States, is thought to be around 13,000 years old.
- King Clone is an individual creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) in the Mojave Desert of southern California, United States, estimated at 11,700 years old. 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.
- Old Tjikko, a Norway spruce tree in the county of Dalarna, Sweden, is living on top of roots that have been radiocarbon-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 of Umeå University, Old Tjikko is small, only 5 m (16 ft) in height.
- "Humongous Fungus", an individual of the clonal subterranean fungal species Armillaria solidipes in Oregon's Malheur National Forest, is thought to be between 2,000 and 8,500 years old. Apart from its extreme age, it is also thought to be the world's largest organism by area, at 2,384 acres (965 hectares).
Individual plant specimens
- Methuselah, a Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) in the White Mountains of California, has been measured by ring count to be 4,851 years old. It is therefore the oldest known living individual non-clonal tree in the world.
- A specimen of Fitzroya cupressoides in Chile was measured by ring count as 3,649 years old, meaning this species has the second-oldest verified age of any non-clonal tree species.
- The Cypress of Abarkuh, a Mediterranean cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) in Iran, is estimated to be between 2,000 and 5,000 years old.
- The Llangernyw Yew, an ancient yew (Taxus baccata) in the churchyard of the village of Llangernyw in North Wales, is believed to be between 4,000 and 5,000 years old.
- The President, located in Sequoia National Park, California, is the oldest known living giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) at approximately 3,200 years of age.
- Yareta is a tiny flowering plant in the family Apiaceae native to South America, occurring in the Puna grasslands of the Andes in Peru, Bolivia, northern Chile, and western Argentina between 3,200 and 4,500 metres (10,500 and 14,800 ft) in altitude. Some yaretas may be up to 3,000 years old.
- A Panke baobab (Adansonia digitata) in Zimbabwe was some 2,450 years old when it died in 2011, making it the oldest angiosperm ever documented, and two other trees of the same species – Dorslandboom in Namibia and Glencoe in South Africa – were estimated to be approximately 2,000 years old.
- A sacred fig (Ficus religiosa), the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, is 2307 years old, having been planted in 288 BC. It is the oldest known living human-planted tree in the world.
- The Great sugi of Kayano, the cryptomeria deemed planted by humans in Kaga, Ishikawa, Japan, had an estimated age of 2,300 years in 1928.
- Jōmon Sugi, the cryptomeria naturally grown in Yakushima Island, Kagoshima, Japan, is 2,170 to 7,200 years old.
- A specimen of Lagarostrobos franklinii in Tasmania is thought to be about 2,000 years old.
- The Fortingall Yew, an ancient yew (Taxus baccata) in the churchyard of the village of Fortingall in Perthshire, Scotland, is one of the oldest known individual trees in Europe. Various estimates have put its age between 2,000 and 5,000 years, although it is now believed to be at the lower end of this range.
- Numerous olive trees are purported to be 2,000 years old or older. An olive tree in Ano Vouves, Crete, claiming such longevity, has been confirmed on the basis of tree-ring analysis.
- Tāne Mahuta, a kauri tree (Agathis australis) in New Zealand, is believed to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years old. It is the oldest and largest standing kauri tree at present.
- Welwitschia is a monotypic genus of gymnosperm plant, composed solely of the distinct Welwitschia mirabilis. The plant is considered a living fossil. Radiocarbon dating has confirmed that many individuals have lived longer than 1,000 years, and some are suspected to be older than 2,000 years.
- Glass sponges found in the East China Sea and Southern Ocean have been determined to be more than 10,000 years old.
- Specimens of the black coral genus Leiopathes, such as Leiopathes glaberrima, are among the oldest continuously living organisms on the planet: around 4,265 years old.
- 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.
- The black coral Antipatharia in the Gulf of Mexico may live more than 2,000 years.
- 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.
- A specimen, "Ming" of the Icelandic cyprine Arctica islandica (also known as an ocean quahog), a mollusk, was found to have lived 507 years. Another specimen had a recorded lifespan of 374 years.
- Greenland shark had been estimated to live to about 200 years, but a study published in 2016 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. That makes the Greenland shark the longest-lived vertebrate.
- The maximum life-span of the freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) may be 210–250 years.
- Some have claimed koi fish can live more than 200 years, for example Hanako, which some claim died at an age of 226 years on July 7, 1977, but this age estimate is based on a scale estimate, is inadequate, and is not scientifically accepted.
- Some confirmed sources estimate bowhead whales to have lived at least to 211 years of age, making them the oldest mammals.
- Rougheye rockfish can reach an age of 205 years.
- Specimens of the Red Sea urchin Strongylocentrotus franciscanus have been found to be over 200 years old.
- Many sub-families of the marine fish Oreosomatidae, including the Allocyttus, Neocyttus, and Pseudocyttus (collectively referred to as the Oreos) have been reported to live up to 170 years, based on otolith-increment estimates and radiometric dating
- The deepsea hydrocarbon seep tubeworm Lamellibrachia luymesi (Annelida, Polychaeta) lives for more than 170 years.
- Geoduck, a species of saltwater clam native to the Puget Sound, have been known to live more than 160 years.
- 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.
- Orange roughy, also known as deep sea perch, can live up to 149 years.
- George the lobster was estimated to be about 140 years old by PETA in January 2009.
- In 2012, a sturgeon estimated to be 125 years old was caught in a river in Wisconsin.
- Tardigrades, capable of cryptobiosis, have been shown to survive nearly 120 years in a dry state.
- The Bigmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus), a freshwater fish in the Family Catostomidae, has a maximum longevity of at least 112 years based on otolith annulus counts and bomb radiocarbon dating.
- A killer whale of the "Southern Resident Community" identified as J2 or Granny was estimated by some researchers to have been approximately 105 years old at her death in 2017; however, other dating methods estimated her age as 65–80.
- Jeanne Calment, a French woman, lived to the age of 122 years, 164 days, making her the oldest fully documented human who has ever lived. She died on August 4, 1997.
- The oldest known person alive today is Kane Tanaka at 117 years, 214 days (born 2 January 1903).
These are single examples; for a broader view, see life expectancy (includes humans).
Other terrestrial and pagophilic animals
- Adwaita, an Aldabra giant tortoise, died at an estimated age of 255 in March 2006 in Alipore Zoo, Kolkata, India. If verified, it will have been the oldest terrestrial animal in the world.
- Tu'i Malila, a radiated tortoise, died at an age of 188 years in May 1966, at the time the oldest verified vertebrate. This tortoise was born in 1777.
- Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise living on the island of Saint Helena, is reported to be about 188 years old, and may, therefore, be the oldest currently living terrestrial animal if the claim is true.
- Harriet, a Galápagos tortoise, died at the age of 175 years in June 2006.
- Timothy, a spur-thighed tortoise, born in Turkey died at an age of 165 years on 3 April 2004 in the UK.
- The tuatara, a lizard-like reptile native to New Zealand, can live well over 100 years. Henry, a tuatara at the Southland Museum in New Zealand, mated for the first time at the estimated age of 111 years in 2009 with an 80-year-old female and fathered 11 baby tuatara.
- Dakshayani, a female Asian elephant, initially owned by the Travancore royal family and later by the Travancore Devaswom Board, was 88 or 89 years old when she died on February 5, 2019. She is believed to be the oldest elephant in captivity in Asia and was nicknamed ‘Gaja Muthassi’ (grandmother of elephants).
- Lin Wang, an Asian elephant, was the oldest elephant in the Taipei Zoo. He was born on January 18, 1917, and died on 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.
- Cookie (hatched June 30, 1933), an Australian-born Major Mitchell's cockatoo at Brookfield Zoo, Illinois, was the oldest member of his species in captivity, and died in August 2016 at a verified age of 83.
- Muja, an American alligator at Belgrade Zoo, is considered the oldest alligator in the world. Muja is more than 80 years old.
- Thaao, an Andean condor, died at the age of 80.
- A female Laysan albatross named Wisdom successfully laid an egg at Midway Atoll in December 2016, at the age of 66. As of 2017, she is the oldest known wild bird in the world.
- The oldest living horse on record, Ol' Billy, was allegedly born in the year 1760 in London, England. Bill died in 1822 at the age of 62 years. Henry Harrison, a resident of London during the time, had also allegedly known Ol' Billy for 59 years until Bill's death.
- Nonja, a Sumatran orangutan, died at the age of 55 years in December 2007. She was claimed to be the oldest-living orangutan of her species.
- 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.
- A wild-born black rhino named Elly was the oldest in North America at an estimated 45 years of age, and resided in California's San Francisco Zoo from April 1974 until passing in May 2017.
- The oldest living spider, named Number 16 by researchers, was a 43-year-old female Gaius villosus armored trapdoor spider, at the North Bungulla Reserve, Tammin, Western Australia.
- 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.
- The oldest recorded bat, a Brandt's bat, is at least 41 years old.
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