The average human lifespan is about 79 years these days. On the other hand, if you are a rat, you’ve got about two fun-filled years out in the wild. And if you’re a housefly? Just shy of a month. The Earth has grown to accommodate some crazy lifespans, from insects that have just a few days up to those tortoises that can live for over a century. But, as it happens, that’s just the beginning for some creatures. There are a handful of living things in the world that outlast humans by a country mile.
10. Immortal Jellyfish Could Maybe Live Forever
Jiroemon Kimura was the oldest human ever, and he lived for just over 116 years. Theoretically, that could potentially just be a tiny blip on the radar for the immortal jellyfish. This particular beast of the depths didn’t get its name for no reason. As it goes through the phases of its life, the immortal jellyfish is able to turn back the clock once it gets to the point where other animals might die of old age.
The final stage of life for a jellyfish is called the Medusa phase. A normal jellyfish will grow old and die in this state having jellied all the things it needs to jelly, or whatever it is jellyfish do all day. The immortal jellyfish, however, can circumnavigate death and go back to a larval stage where it can grow up and mature all over again. It’s the equivalent of you Benjamin Buttoning yourself by the time you reach age 79. Instead of checking out, you just turn back the clock and become a toddler again and get to start the whole process over.
No one can really know for sure how old any particular immortal jellyfish is. And of course they are still subject to environmental dangers like being eaten by another animal, or being struck by a meteor. No amount of self-induced regression can overcome that. However, barring outside influences, it seems possible that an immortal jellyfish could continually turn the clock back on itself over and over again and never die.
9. The Ancient Sea Sponge
Sponges are by no means an exciting animal if you are interested in the fast-paced side of nature. They look like uncared for plants of the deep sea. However, they are multi-celled organisms and if they contribute nothing else to the conversation about the variety of flora and fauna in the world they can at least stake a claim on being some of the most long-lived creatures you will ever hear of. In fact, at least one kind of sponge is believed to have cracked the 11,000 year mark, give or take 3,000 years.
This particular sponge reached 10 feet in length, making it one of the largest on record, Some have managed to reach larger sizes, including one that hit 12 feet by 7 feet, or roughly the size of a minivan.
8. Greenland Shark May Live Up to 500 Years
There are over 1,000 species of shark in the world but only a handful of them ever seem to get any attention. We all know tiger sharks, hammerheads, and Great Whites. But one of the most unusual kinds of sharks is the Greenland shark. These monsters can be found at an incredible depth, around 9,000 feet below the surface. They grow to over 24 feet in length and will weigh over 2,600 pounds. And they move about a foot per second, which is so slow it seems like they’re going out of their way not to move any faster.
In addition to their unusual physical characteristics, the Greenland shark has the distinction of being the oldest shark in the world as well. Researchers have determined that a Greenland shark can live between 272 and 512 years or so.The oldest confirmed shark was about 390 years old. The 512 number is an estimate based on testing for exactly how long one of these sharks could live. The story was widely reported that researchers have found a 512-year-old shark, but that wasn’t the case. Not that a 390-year-old shark is anything to sniff at.
7. Tube Worms Can Reach 300 years
Few creatures in the world are as bizarre as tube worms. In particular, the escarpia laminata species of tube worms live in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico and around 1,000 to 3,300 meters below the surface. They live near vents that belch out all kinds of inhospitable substances like methane, hydrogen sulfide, and other fluids that are typically not conducive to life.
Like other tube worms, this species live their lives in tiny little tubes that look like straws and aren’t particularly mobile outside of them. Despite their curious existence living in toxic waters and not going anywhere, they spend a lot of time doing whatever it is they do. Researchers estimate that they live at least 100 to 200 years. Some, they suspect, have reached at least 300 years and the idea has been tossed out that it’s not outside the realm of possibility that they could make it all the way to 1,000 years. That’s never been confirmed, but the 200-year mark is something that they have confirmed with evidence suggesting 300 is fairly likely as well.
6. Rougheye Rockfish Can Live 205 years
Rockfish get their name from their habit of hiding and living among rocks at the bottom of the sea. There are a number of different species of rockfish out there and they are generally considered a tasty fish as well so people will catch them to eat them. Of course your desire to eat these fish may be somewhat tempered when you find out that they are some of the longest-lived fish in the water.
In fact, a Rougheye Rockfish currently holds the record for the oldest kind of Rockfish clocking in at an impressive 205 years old. That means, if you’re not sure what you’re doing, you could end up catching and eating a fish that was splashing around in the waters during the Civil War.
5. Red Sea Urchins Can Reach 200 years
A red sea urchin looks like a fist-sized, spiky red ball. They live in shallow waters stretching from Alaska down to California and despite the fact that they look like water cacti, they are living creatures and they can walk around if they want to. Not very fast or anything, but they use tiny spines and feet to scuttle about the ocean’s floor. This allows them to hunt down seaweed and algae so they can eat.
And it’s just as well, because apparently these little guys can live for up to 200 years. Imagine if you had to live for two centuries stuck in one spot.
4. Jonathan the Tortoise is 187 Years Old
Typically when you think of a long-lived animal one of the first things it’s going to come to mind is a tortoise, and for good reason. Tortoises can live a remarkably long time. A world famous Seychelles giant tortoise named Jonathan got up to a stunning 187 years of age. Others have been alleged to live even longer though that’s never been confirmed. And really, when you live 187 years at the speed of a tortoise it’s not like you need any more years under your belt to prove yourself.
Age isn’t without its problems, of course. Jonathan is believed to be completely blind and he doesn’t have a very active lifestyle, not that many tortoises do. Still, he’s doing what tortoises do and he isn’t done doing it just yet.
3. Geoduck Live Up to 165 years
One of the weirdest creatures in the world is the geoduck. It’s a kind of shellfish, a saltwater clam actually, and one of the most obscene looking creatures in all of nature. If you haven’t had a good look at one, do yourself a favor and Google a few images. There’s no polite way to describe them, so just go ahead and see for yourself. Despite the way they look, they’re actually a highly prized delicacy as well. When you’re Googling the weird pictures of them you can also Google some recipes.
The geoduck can grow up to over three feet in length. That makes it the largest kind of burrowing clam in the world. And aside from being extremely long, it’s also extremely long-lived. The longest lived one on record so far is over 165 years of age.
2. Tuatara Live 111 years
You may not have heard of a Tuatara before, but they’re very interesting reptiles that look like tiny dinosaurs. Native to New Zealand, the Tuatara are the only surviving member of their order which dates all the way back to the Triassic period, 250 million years ago. They look a little bit like a cross between an iguana and a Pokemon with a body that reminds you of dinosaurs from old-timey, black and white sci-fi movies but oddly cartoonish little faces with unusually large eyes.
Their name means ‘peaks on the back’ in the Maori language and despite their cool appearance, they’re also rather small. Basically they don’t get over three pounds and they only reach about 31 inches in length, with most of that being tail. They also have somewhere between five and six billion base pairs of DNA sequence, which is double what humans have. Not bad for a little lizard that some people described as a living fossil.
The oldest known Tuatara is named Henry and he arrived at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery when he was 70-years-old. In 2002 doctors removed a tumor from the old reptile’s genitals and actually turned his life around. He was a crabby, antisocial lizard before that but after the surgery he was able to warm up to others of his kind and actually managed to breed with another Tuatara in the year 2009. He fathered 11 little lizards at the age of 111 years old.
1. Bowhead Whales Can Live for 268 Years
Relatively speaking, mammals don’t have particularly long life spans compared to many other creatures in the world. In fact, we humans are some of the most long-lived mammals in the world and we are lucky to reach 100 years. But the longest-living mammal of them all is the bowhead whale.
The previous claim to fame of the bowhead whale with the fact that it has, proportionately speaking, the largest mouth of any creature on Earth. About one-third of the bowhead whale’s size is just its mouth. And it’s also able to smash through ice from below the surface thanks to the fact that its head is basically one giant bone spear.
Using some sophisticated scientific methods researchers from Australia analyzed genes from the bowhead whale and determined that it can live for up to 268 years. That isn’t to say that they found an actual 268 year old whale, but one was once discovered that had a 200-year-old harpoon still stuck in it.
Other specimens of bowhead whale have been discovered that were aged to 211 years. The Australian researchers used a chemical process to study 42 genes from the whales, however, to determine the 268 year lifespan.