From antiquity, longevity and immortality of living species and individuals has been a subject of research and study for many great scientists, thinkers, and philosophers. Science claims that the fundamental unit of life is the cell and that for any living organism to live as long as possible, it must work to maintain a healthy stasis for the cells that comprise it. This is the main reason why many modern researchers and scientists believe that the secret to longevity and possibly to immortality is hidden in nature, to be more specific, in other living organisms that appear to live unrealistically long. Trust us, these organisms are much older than your grandma, and so, on today’s list we will take a closer look at these 25 living fossils.
The Blue-and-yellow Macaw is a member of a big group of Neotropical parrots that are known for two things: their exotic color and appearance and their amazing ability to age slowly and live a long life. One of the most famous cases of a Blue-and-yellow Macaw living quite long is that of a female named Charlie who, according to estimates, was hatched in 1899, which would make her about 115 years old. She became particularly popular back in 2004 when a story on BBC News claimed that Charlie had formerly belonged to Winston Churchill in the 1930s, information that Churchill’s daughter didn’t verify, most likely because she wasn’t sure about the story’s validity herself.
We already knew that whales are considered to be some of the longest-living mammals on Earth and are also known for having one of the slowest heart rates as well. We just didn’t know the exact numbers but this isn’t the case anymore. Granny, as marine scientists refer to her, is an orca that was born around 1911 and so is believed to be about 103 years old at the moment, a fact that gives her the record for being the oldest-known orca alive. Until recently the average life span of a female orca was around 70 to 80 years, but Granny’s case has made many marine scientists question the validity of their theories or whether Granny is just a sole exception to the rule.
Of course, we can’t go without talking about our own species on this list, now can we? Supposedly the smartest and most civilized of all animals, humans, even though they tend to grow old pretty fast, especially compared to organisms such as plants, aquatic animals, and various other microorganism, appear to be one of the longest-living terrestrial creatures. Even though there have been numerous unverified reports of people who managed to live hundreds of years, Methuselah being a prime example, the longest historically recorded human life belonged to a Frenchwoman named Jeanne Calment, who died at age 122 and 164 days. Not bad for a human, huh?
Sturgeons are usually known for their length and tasty meat and are generally considered one of the best “catches’’ for any fisherman in the United States. In 2012, the state Department of Natural Resources tagged a 125-year-old female sturgeon in Wisconsin. After a closer examination, biologist Ron Bruch found that the 7’3-inch-long, 240-pound sturgeon was born around 1887, which means that the gigantic sturgeon is currently 127 years old and still counting.
Tuatara are rare, small-sized reptiles that are located only in New Zealand. A typical adult tuatara ranges from about 300 g to 1 kg, and they are considered to be the only surviving members of the Sphenodontia family, which was represented by many species during the age of the dinosaurs almost 200 million years ago. However, all these species vanished and became extinct about 60 million years ago, except the tuatara, a fact that makes them an endangered species, and one of the most ancient animals in the world.
In 2002, a tuatara named Henry by his caretakers underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his genitals and in 2009 at the age of 111 he mated for the first time with an eighty-year-old female named Mildred and had 11 baby tuatara.
Contrary to various urban legends and memes you might have heard about lobsters, the truth is that this delicious crustacean is as mortal as humans and even if left undisturbed by man and other sea predators, it will one day die from old age. However, scientific studies have shown that lobsters don’t age like most other living organisms, their reproductive capabilities do not decrease, and their metabolism doesn’t slow down as they grow older. In fact, their strength seems to increase as they age in many cases, with the prime example being George the Lobster, a giant American lobster that was captured in 2008 and impressed everyone with his weight (20 lbs) and incredible strength. According to marine scientists he was born around 1869, which would currently make him 145 years old.
According to a paper published in 2000 in Nature, a Penn State research team found that the tube worms that live in the cold and calm hydrocarbon-seep sites in the Gulf of Mexico have surprisingly way longer life spans compared to their distant cousins living in the hot and dynamic hydrothermal vents. According to the scientific estimations of the Penn State research team, it is believed that an average 2-meter-long tube worm can live from 170 to 250 years.
According to scientists and ecologists alike, even though sea urchins seem to have high mortality rates, in most cases their deaths are a result of being preyed upon by man and other sea creatures. The red sea urchin for example, also known as Mesocentrotus franciscanus, can live up to 200 years if it doesn’t become food for fish or humans in the meantime. The red sea urchin seems to prefer the waters of the Pacific since it can be found in great quantity anywhere from Alaska to Baja California. They live in shallow waters and are usually located on rocky shores sheltered from intense wave action.
Evidence of ancient harpooning methods combined with modern scientific research has shown that a bowhead whale can live as long as 200 years, which has led scientists to believe that it could possibly be the longest-living mammal on the planet. The sad thing about bowhead whales is that in most cases the scientists have to estimate their age through an autopsy, which was the case of a bowhead that was killed by Iñupiat Eskimos in northern Alaska and was estimated to be 211 years old. Researchers insist that if bowhead whales could be left undisturbed by Iñupiat hunters they could live more than 250 years.
Koi fish are usually kept for decorative purposes in outdoor koi ponds or water gardens and are probably the second-most-famous fish used for decoration, behind goldfish. Koi are known for their remarkable longevity and for their fascinating variation in color: they can come in white, red, yellow, black, blue, cream, and other color combinations as well. Apparently a koi can live for 200 years or more, with the most famous example being a koi whose owners called it Hanako, who died at the age of 226 years on July 7, 1977.
Adwaita was a male Aldabra giant tortoise that lived in the Alipore Zoological Gardens of Kolkata, India. According to the scientists and zoo employees who took care of Adwaita, the enormous animal weighed about 590 lbs and some of his favorite foods included carrots, lettuce, bread, and grass. It was also estimated that this giant tortoise was born in the Seychelles around 1750 and was about 255 years old when he died in 2006. This means that during the course of his life Adwaita was alive through four different centuries, a fact that makes tortoises some of the longest-living animals in history.
Freshwater Pearl Mussel
The freshwater pearl mussel is a species of freshwater mussel also known by its scientific name Margaritifera margaritifera, and it has recently been categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as likely to become extinct. For that reason, marine scientists and malacologists alike have paid much attention to the species in recent decades, with Russian malacologist Valeriy Zyuganov gaining global attention upon his discovery that a freshwater pearl mussel could live up to 250 years. A team of Finnish malacologists later confirmed his discovery, and revealed that the oldest-recorded animal in Finland’s history is a Margaritifera margaritifera that was estimated to be between 210 and 250 years old.
The ocean Quahog
The Ocean quahog also known as Arctica islandica, is a classic marine bivalvemollusk, and the two halves of its hinged, rounded shell are thick, glossy and dark brown in color. It is a long-lived animal and it’s really big for its kind since it can grow up to 13-14cm across. It usually lives buried in both dry and muddy sand, and up to a depth of 500 meters, often with its shell completely hidden, with just a small tube rising to the surface of the seabed. The most impressive thing about the ocean quahog however seems to be its longevity with two specimens of this kind found to have lived 507 years and 375 years respectively.
Honey fungus, also known as Armillaria, is a genus of parasitical fungi that usually lives on trees and woody shrubs. In 2000, a team of mycologists discovered an individual fungus, Armillaria ostoyae, in Malheur National Forest in eastern Oregon which impressed the scientific community for its size and long life span. It covered 3.4 square miles and was estimated to be 2,400 years old.
This ancient five-meter tall Norway spruce was discovered in 2008 by geologist and professor Leif Kullman of Umeå University and is located in Sweden. At 9,550 years, Old Tjikko is considered to be one of the oldest single-stemmed clonal trees (if not the oldest), and took root not long after the glaciers receded from Scandinavia after the last ice age. In case you’re wondering how the Old Tjikko got its name, Leif Kullman named the tree after his deceased dog.
Despite what many people appear to believe, sponges are animals or, to be more precise, they are the simplest form of multi-cellular animals. They are known for their truly amazing diversity since they come in an immense variety of colors and shapes. They don’t have internal organs or muscles and even more amazingly, they lack a nervous and circulatory system. Their walls are lined with many small pores called ostia, which allow water to flow into the sponge. The most impressive thing about sponges, however, seems to be their ability to survive for thousands of years, as marine scientists have found and examined species of sponges in Antarctica which were estimated to be 10,000 years old.
Leiopathes corals are some of the oldest-known organisms in the sea, and like every other black coral that belongs to the order of Antipatharia, Leiopathes have a dark skeleton after which they are named. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about Leiopathes corals and their biological status because they live in deep, cold, dark waters that human beings haven’t managed to fully explore yet.
However, a team of marine scientists recently suggested that Leiopathes corals might be some of the longest-living species on the planet, after they found and examined a Leiopathes glaberrima that appeared to have a life span in excess of 4,500 years, which of course makes it one of the oldest-known marine organisms in the world.
Endoliths are organisms that live inside rocks or in pores between mineral grains. They have been found in a large range of environments, from rocks on the Earth’s surface to miles beneath the subsurface. Many endoliths are self-feeding, which means they are capable of producing carbohydrates, fats, and proteins from simple substances present in their surroundings, which helps them survive in pretty much every pleasant or unpleasant environment and situation. It has been reported that researchers have found endoliths on the ocean floor that were estimated to be 10,000 years old. The most surprising fact about endoliths, however, is the theory of various astrobiologists who suggest that endolithic environments exist on Mars and speculate that endoliths might have “immigrated” to Earth thousands of years ago, though they have been so far unable to explain how this happened.
The Great Basin Bristlecone Pines
The Great Basin bristlecone pine, or Pinus longaeva, is a long-living species of tree located in the higher mountains of the southwest United States. Bristlecone pines grow in isolated groves in the arid mountain regions of the western states, and the oldest were found in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in California’s White Mountains. These trees have an exceptional ability to survive in exceedingly rough and demanding environments. In fact, one member of this species was measured by ring count to be 5,064 years old and is now widely considered to be the oldest-known living individual tree in North America and possibly the planet, too.
Silphidae is a family of beetles also known as carrion beetles. These beetles are particularly famous in entomology circles because of their beneficial “abnormality” which allows their larvae to go through a degree of “reversed development” when starved, and later to grow back to the previously attained level of maturity. Entomologists suggest that the cycle can be repeated many times, which allows this beetle to live for a very long, unidentified period of time.
In 2012, a Russian team of scientists discovered and examined a seed cache of Silene stenophylla, a flowering plant native to Siberia, which had been buried by an ice age squirrel near the banks of the Kolyma River. Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the seeds were an incredible 32,000 years old. This, of course, makes Silene stenophylla the oldest plant ever to be regenerated in history.
Hydrae are believed to be one of the very few organisms that are biologically immortal and there’s no senescence in their kind. What does that mean? Simply put, their cells divide forever and as a result a hydra never grows old. However, hydrae that reproduce sexually will eventually age and die just like humans or other animals. According to a study published in the journal Experimental Gerontology, biologists are particularly fascinated by hydrae due to their amazing regenerative ability, while some scientists will go as far as to say that hydrae might be hiding the secret of immortality for humans.
Pando is a deciduous tree native to cooler areas of North America. The Pando aspen clone in Utah is believed to be 80,000 years old, but some scientists are skeptical and think that it could be ten times older, even though this hasn’t been officially verified yet. Despite its impressive age, Pando isn’t considered the oldest individual tree, but this clonal colony quaking aspen in Utah is one of the most ancient and also heaviest of organisms on the planet with a staggering weight of 6,615 tons.
Posidonia oceanica is endemic to the Mediterranean and is the most widespread seagrass species in the region. It takes its name from the ancient Greek god of the sea, Poseidon. The significance of this flowering plant for the ecosystem is unquestionable since it forms large underwater meadows that are very important for the survival of many other underwater organisms that are fed from these meadows. In 2006, an immense clonal colony of this seagrass species was discovered by a team of researchers south of the island of Ibiza in Spain and was estimated to be around 100,000 years old, which of course makes it one of the oldest clonal colonies on Earth.
The Immortal Jellyfish
The immortal jellyfish, or the Turritopsis nutricula as it’s called in the scientific world, is the only living organism on Earth that has achieved some kind of “immortality.” Marine biologists were shocked to find out that the jellyfish is able to revert back to a juvenile form once it mates after becoming sexually mature, and so in this way it can potentially live forever. The Turritopsis nutricula, classified as a hydrozoa (very small predatory animals), is the only known creature capable of reverting completely to its younger self and scientists believe that the cycle can repeat indefinitely, which means that the “immortal jellyfish” might really be immortal after all.
These organisms truly seem like they can live forever…but can they last longer than these 25 Most Indestructible Things Known To Man