List of longest-living organisms

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Hanako, a Japanese Koi that lived for 226 years (1751–1977).

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 verified known individuals that are currently
  2. Verified Record holders, such as the most long-lived human, Jeanne Calment, or the most long-lived domestic cat, Creme Puff (1967-2005)

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 not possible by any known means.
  • 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.
Around 1992, working among others with entomologist George Poinar, Cano sequenced the DNA of a fossil weevil trapped in amber;[18] Poinar was the author of a 1982 paper on conservation of specimens in amber[19] which influenced Michael Crichton to write his award-winning Jurassic Park.[20]

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.[21]

  • Pando is a Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen) tree or clonal colony that has been estimated at 80,000 years old.[22] Unlike many other clonal "colonies", the above-ground trunks remain connected to each other by a single massive subterranean root system.
  • 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.[23]
  • 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.[24][25][26]
  • Lomatia tasmanica in Tasmania: the sole surviving clonal colony of this species is estimated to be at least 43,600 years old.[27]
  • Eucalyptus recurva: clones in Australia are claimed to be 13,000 years old.[28]
  • King Clone is a creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) in the Mojave Desert estimated at 11,700 years old.[29] 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.[30]
  • 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.[31][32][33][34]
  • A box huckleberry bush in Pennsylvania is thought to be around 13,000 years old.[35]
  • "Humongous Fungus", an individual of the fungal species Armillaria solidipes in Oregon's Malheur National Forest, is thought to be between 2,000 and 8,500 years old.[36][37] 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, perhaps millions of years old, with a generation time of 10 millennia.[38] These are slowly metabolizing, not in a dormant state.

Some Actinobacteria found in Siberia are estimated to be half a million years old.[39][40][41]

Individual plant specimens[edit]

The Llangernyw Yew may be the oldest tree in Europe.


Life expectancy by region in 2015
  • 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.[50]
  • The oldest known person alive today is Kane Tanaka at 115 years, 315 days (born 2 January 1903).[51]

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

Aquatic animals[edit]

Giant barrel sponges can live more than 2,000 years.

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]