Can you imagine living for a few hundred years? This is only a fantasy for humans, but it’s the living reality for many amazing animals on our planet. Read on to discover some of the world’s longest-lived animals and what makes them so praise-worthy.
Wild flamingos typically live 20 to 30 years, but a flamingo named Greater who lived at the Adelaide Zoo in Australia made it to an impressive 83-years-old. After a significant health decline, Greater was euthanized on Jan 30, 2014. Zookeepers were never able to determine Greater’s gender.
2. The Ocean Quahog
The ocean quahog is a species of edible clam native to the North Atlantic Ocean. In 2006, a research team collected a specimen from the Icelandic seabed that they estimated was a staggering 507-years-old. They determined this by counting the rings on its shell, similar to trees. The mollusk was likely born in 1499, shortly after Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas for the first time.
These lizards can live up to 200 years, but that’s not their only claim to fame. Tuataras are only found in New Zealand, and their closest relatives are an extinct group of reptiles from around the time of the dinosaurs. “Tuatara” is a Maori word that means “peaks on back,” referring to the spiky scales on tuataras’ backs and tails. What’s even stranger is the fact they have a “third eye” on top of their head. The “eye” has a retina, lens and nerve endings, but it’s not used for seeing. It’s covered by scales and may help tuataras judge the time of day or season.
4. Bowhead Whale
Bowhead whales spend their entire lives in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters. They’re also one of the longest-lived mammals on earth. Native whale hunters have found old harpoon heads in whales’ skin that they have been carrying for over one hundred years. Scientists have also been able to determine the age of bowhead whales by examining amino acids in their eyes. The oldest whale they’ve found was 211-years-old.
Parrots are naturally long-lived birds, and macaws top the list. Many are rumored to live over 100 years. The most infamous macaw may be Charlie the Curser. She’s a blue and yellow macaw reported to have been born in 1899, which would make her 118 today. She was known to shout strings of obscenities, mostly aimed at Hitler and the Nazis. Her colored past is largely unknown, but she now lives at a garden center in Reigate, Surrey.
Many koi carp are known to live over 100 years, but the oldest known fish was 226-years-old when she passed away in 1977 in Japan. Hanako, which means “flower girl” in Japanese, was born in 1751. That made her older than the United States Constitution. Hanako had been passed down through generations. Her family felt it may have been her life in the crystal-clear waters of the Japanese mountains that contributed to her longevity.
In early 2017, an albatross named Wisdom hatched a new chick at age 66. Wisdom is currently the oldest known wild bird. She’s returned to the same nesting site at the Midway Atoll Wildlife Refuge to rear over 30 chicks throughout her six decades of life.
8. Greenland Shark
Researchers have confirmed Greenland sharks can live more than 400 years, including one recently caught fish who may have been 512-years-old. These sharks live in northern, freezing waters and they can be found anywhere from 600 to 2,400 feet (180 to 730 meters) deep in the ocean.
9. Antarctic Sponge
Many different sponges inhabit the sea around Antarctica. Sea sponges are the simplest, multi-cellular organisms. They filter sea water that moves through them to get their nutrients, and can process up to 50 gallons (200 liters) of water per hour. They grow slowly in the cold waters, and one particular sponge, a specimen of Scolymasta joubini, was estimated to be 15,000-years-old.
African elephants may live to 70-years-old, but the oldest known elephant was an Asian elephant named Lin Wang who died in 2003 when he was 83. During World War II, the Chinese Expeditionary Force captured Lin Wang from a Japanese camp. He was used to transport supplies and other heavy tasks during the war. Lin Wang was donated to the Taipei Zoo in 1952, where he met his lifelong mate Malan. They lived out the rest of their years together as beloved members of the zoo.
11. Giant Tortoises
Tortoises are considered the longest living vertebrate animals on earth. Many species can live well over 100 years. The longest-lived tortoise was named Adwaita. He was an Aldabra giant tortoise, originally from the Seychelles, who died at the venerable age of 255 at the Alipore Zoological Gardens of Kolkata, India.
12. Red Sea Urchin
Red sea urchins live along the western coast of North America, and some urchins off the coast of British Columbia have reached 200-years-old. They eat seaweeds and kelp along the tide line and rarely venture deeper than 300 feet (90 meters) of water. Urchins use their sensitive spines for monitoring their environment and moving around.
Scientists have nicknamed the species Turritopsis dohrnii as the “immortal jellyfish” due to its regenerative ability. When threatened, the cells of an adult jellyfish can be transformed into a juvenile form. This means the adults can become babies over and over again. Although, only the adults have this ability. The juvenile jellies are susceptible to death.
The longest-lived crocodiles in the wild are saltwater crocs, who can live from 70 to 100 years. But a freshwater crocodile named Mr. Freshie became the oldest recorded crocodile after he was rescued in 1970 from poachers. He was put in the Australia Zoo, where he died in 2010 at the estimated age of 120-140 years old.
15. Oldest Cat
Crème Puff holds the Guinness World Record as the longest-lived cat. She was a mixed tabby who lived with her owner Jake Perry in Austin, Texas until she died at age 38. Jake attributed her longevity to a loving home and a special diet. In addition to dry cat food, he would make her a daily home-cooked breakfast of eggs, turkey bacon, broccoli, coffee with cream, and every other day give her an eyedropper full of red wine.
16. Oldest Dog
Bluey holds the world record as the oldest dog. He was an Australian cattle dog born in 1910 who worked with cattle and sheep until he was put down in November, 1939 at 29 years and 5 months old. In equivalent human years, Bluey would have been about 206.
Painting of Old Billy by W. Taylor / Photo credit: Warrington Museum Art Gallery
17. Oldest Horse
The world’s oldest known horse was named Old Billy, an English stallion who lived to age 62. He was born in 1760 in Woolston, Lancashire and worked as a barge horse, pulling barges up and down canals. This was common in the days before boat engines. He became a local celebrity as he aged, and was depicted in a few local paintings and lithographs. On a more macabre note, his taxidermied head lives on today at the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery Bedford Museum.