The Oldest Animals Alive Have Been Around Longer Than Your Great-Grandparents
Whether aided along by a helping human hand or best left to their own devices in their natural environment, these creatures have the longest life expectancy of any organism on Earth. Whether they swim, slither, or crawl, some of the oldest animals are bound to leave you utterly astounded.
27. Atlantic Halibut – Up To 90 Years
It’s time to talk about this wacky, unique fish — even if it’s just for the halibut (get it?). Chances are, if you’re of the fish-eating persuasion, you’ve had an encounter with this behemoth before, on your dinner plate. It’s the biggest species of flounder out there.
These wonky fellows have a characteristically bizarre look, with their eyes bugging out on either side of their head as they lie flat on the ocean floor seeking out prey. They have been recorded to live up to 50 years. But there are scientific estimates, albeit unverified that say these old animals can live up to 90 years in the wild!
26. Humpback Whale – Up To 95 Years
It’s no surprise why the humpback whale is not only one of the best-known whale species in the world, but considered among the most popular. You can find them in every ocean, so anywhere you are, as long as you’re in their breeding or feeding grounds, you might just catch a glimpse of one.
Known for their lovely singing, humpback whales are not skittish. They’re considered to be quite friendly, and are often curious about that boat passing near them. And while the average humpback whale lives to about 50, there are reports of them reaching the ripe old age of 95.
25. American Lobster – Up To 100 Years
Sure, you’re probably so used to seeing this bug of the seas sitting on your plate with a wedge of lemon and some butter, that you never knew it has a secret talent to it. If they don’t get munched on by a bigger predator, or succumb to disease, American lobsters can live a seriously long time.
The American lobster species specifically lives vastly longer than its other spiny cousins. The frigid waters of the Atlantic slow down its metabolism, meaning it grows and ages slowly but surely, and can live up to 100 years. While rumors abound that lobsters could well be immortal, it’s difficult to determine their actual age, because they constantly molt.
NEXT UP: This animal may be remarkably old, but it sure is bizarre-looking!
24. Olm Salamander – Up To 100+ Years
Where do we even begin with this anomaly? The olm is a species of salamander that just goes to show how truly bizarre nature can be. It’s an amphibian that spends all of its time underwater, unlike its family members. What’s more, it’s totally blind, and lives exclusively in caves along the coast of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Some locals refer to the olm as ‘the human fish’, because its skin color is so strikingly like that of a pale person. And the first people to mention its discovery centuries ago thought it was a baby dragon! But that’s not all this fascinating creature can do. According to scientific studies, olms can live beyond 100 years.
23. White Sturgeon – Up To 104 Years
The sturgeon family is an extraordinary oddity of the fish world. Its members are renowned not only for their extremely expensive byproducts (yummm, caviar), but also for the remarkably long lives they can live. Hailing from the west coast of the United States and Canada, the white sturgeon is no exception.
This miraculous species almost went extinct by the beginning of the 20th century due to overfishing, but since hunting them became monitored more ethically, the white sturgeon has been able to make a healthy comeback. The oldest white sturgeon ever recorded managed to make an astonishing 104 trips around the sun.
22. Blue Whale – Up To 110 years
There’s simply no chance you haven’t heard of this superlative animal. Pound for pound, blue whales are the largest creature known to have existed on Earth. And to think they attain all that marvelous mass from the most simple of diets, just filtering krill between their baleen bristles.
While most people know off the top of their heads that the blue whale is the longest living animal, there’s yet another impressive quality that they possess. Blue whales on average live to be well into their eighties and nineties, though there are reports that one individual was estimated to be 110 years old!
21. Tuatara – Up To 111 Years
Do not adjust your screens. This Jurassic Park-like little fellow below may look like a toy, but he’s 100% real. We’re constantly reminded that reptiles are today’s descendants of the dinosaurs, but New Zealand’s tuatara truly looks like someone took a full-sized dinosaur and shrunk it down to three feet.
Tuataras are renowned for being some of the oldest animals out there. They stop growing in their thirties, but they can live way past that. In fact, it’s not uncommon for this lizard to reach 70 or even 90 years of age! One individual, named Henry, became a father in a New Zealand museum at the age of 111 — for the first time.
20. Sablefish – Up To 114 Years
You might also know this creature of the deep as black cod. This North Pacific bottom dweller is a popular food fish. In fact, fishermen often find themselves in competition with killer whales and sperm whales, who also have a hankering for these morsels. But for the fish eaters among us, did you ever stop to wonder how old that slice on your plate was?
At first glance, the rather ordinary sablefish doesn’t look like it would have any particular superpowers. What you might not know about it is that it could well live longer than you. Reportedly, they can reach an astounding 114 years in the wild.
19. Beluga Sturgeon – Up To 118 Years
It’s the creature that allows fancy people around the world to feel just that much more elegant, thanks to its precious pearly black eggs. The caviar from the beluga sturgeon can cost up to $4,500 per pound, and the fish that produces it is a massive one, sometimes ranging over 20 feet in length and well over 2,000 pounds.
This prehistoric-looking enormous fish is unfortunately listed as critically endangered, hunted to near extinction for its meat and its eggs. On its own, it generally lives into its fifties. But there are instances of the beluga sturgeon living more than twice that long, around 118 years, making it one of the oldest animals out there.
18. European Pond Turtle – Up To 120 Years
Ranging across the European continent and well into the Middle East, the European pond turtle was once quite common. While cute, it seems relatively unassuming. However, when it comes to longevity, this little fellow with its adorable yellow speckles has secretly got most of us beat.
This turtle species, while widely distributed, has become less common, due both to human interference in its habitat and the sensitivity of its hatchlings to climate. It’s rare, but some specimens of this species have lived well over a century. One in particular in a botanical garden in southern France was listed as being 120!
17. Spur-Thighed Tortoise – Up To 127 Years
Know anyone who keeps a tortoise in their home? Then chances are, you’ve already encountered this species without even realizing it. Small and friendly, they’re heavily popular as pets, but given their incredible longevity, taking them into your family can actually be quite the long-term investment.
These common pets are actually some of the oldest animals you could find. With some luck and the proper care, the spur-thighed tortoise can go from being just your own personal reptile buddy, to being a family heirloom you end up passing on to your great-grandkids! In captivity, they live exceptionally long lives, even reaching as old as 127 years.
16. Fin Whale – Up To 135-140 Years
Sure, they’re not as flashy nor as notorious as killer whales, they’re not as sociable as humpback whales, and they’re not as big as blue whales. But, as the second largest creature on Earth, fin whales don’t necessarily have to be humble. These peaceful giant mammals of the deep also happen to live to be some of the oldest animals out there.
They have been recorded as living up to 94 years, yet studies performed on a specimen found in Denmark reveal that this particular fin whale may well have lived far, far longer. It was estimated to have lived to between 135 and 140 years of age.
NEXT UP: This animal may be just a bit smaller than a whale, but its age certainly isn’t.
15. Eastern Box Turtle – Up To 138 Years
If you live in the Eastern United States, this is the species of turtle you are most likely to have encountered in the park or the woods. Much beloved, they are the state reptile of both North Carolina and Tennessee. But what you likely didn’t know is that the box turtle you stumbled across could well have met your grandmother.
The Eastern box turtle belongs to the box turtle family, which gets their name from their ability to protect themselves by withdrawing into their shell and snapping it shut quite like, well, a box. While this species tends to thrive better in captivity, able to live beyond a century, some evidence suggests a wild Eastern box turtle may have achieved the unthinkable: the grand old age of 138.
14. Lake Sturgeon – Up To 150 Years
North America’s answer to the beluga, the lake sturgeon can be found everywhere from the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes to Vermont’s Lake Champlain. Unfortunately, a century ago, this species was very nearly fished into oblivion. Today, in 19 of the 20 states where it can be found, it is described as endangered, or threatened.
But when it’s left alone to do what it does best, the lake sturgeon has an amazingly long lifespan — that is, if it’s female. While male lake sturgeon can punch the clock at 55 years, their lady counterparts have been recorded as living up to 150 years, far beyond the capacity of any human being.
13. European Eel – Up To 155 Years
Aww, how sweet is this European eel? All it wants to do is give you a big, slimy, slippery hug! But beyond its stellar good looks, this sadly endangered species of eel has an amazing quality to it. As science would have it, the European eel has been blessed with the gift of longevity.
When you think of old animals, generally speaking, an eel wouldn’t be the first thing to spring to mind. But these wriggly fish have lived to be well over 80 years in captivity. What’s more, one family in Sweden claims the eel that lived in their well died at the age of 155!
12. Galápagos Tortoise – Up To 170+ Years
Once upon a time, in the 16th century, Spanish explorers found a series of islands off the west coast of modern-day Ecuador, and named them galápago, from the staggering population of a quarter of a million massive tortoises that inhabited them. Forty years ago, after centuries of hunting and habitat damage, just 3,000 remained.
But the Galápagos tortoise had a few tricks up its sleeve. With the help of conservationists, today, there are more than 19,000 individuals. The Galápagos tortoise is known not only as the largest tortoise in the world, but one of the oldest animals out there. They have been recorded to live upwards of 170 years.
11. Red Sea Urchin – Up To 200+ Years
Sure, it’s not too much to look at. Whether it’s at the beach in a tidepool, in the aquarium, or even in our friend’s saltwater fish tank, we’re so used to seeing sea urchins that they often don’t strike us as being anything particularly incredible — that is, unless you have the misfortune of stepping on one in the water.
But surprisingly enough, the unassuming red sea urchin has under all those spines the potential to outlive any of us human beings. As one of the oldest animals in the world, whether on land or under the sea, the red sea urchin can live even past 200 years, with little signs of aging or disease.
10. Rougheye Rockfish – Up To 205 Years
You’ve got to give a hand to the various species of rockfish — or a fin, perhaps? The entire genus has absolutely astounding genetics, known for living vastly beyond 100 years of age. Mostly found in deep waters across the North Pacific, rockfish don’t start having kids until they’re at least 25 years old.
Rockfish mothers just get better with age, because their offspring are noted for being more robust the older the mom is. Because of their late maturing age, the different kinds of rockfish populations can easily be damaged by overfishing. But unfettered, the rockeye rockfish can live the longest of any of them — up to 205 years!
NEXT UP: This animal holds the record for its class.
9. Bowhead Whale – Up To 211 Years
Far and away at the top of the planet, in the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean, there lives a creature with a marvelously massive mouth. The bowhead whale has, in fact, the biggest mouth of any animal species out there by proportion — it makes up one-third of its entire body!
For many species out there regarded as the oldest animals on Earth, estimates are based on one sole individual. But the bowhead whale has proven time and time again that it can outlive the best of us, with several estimated to have been between 135 and 172 years old. One bowhead whale was thought to be 211 years old.
8. Koi – Up To 226 Years
So you want to make a nice little fish pond for your home. You design it, put in some plants, and naturally, your first choice of fish will probably be the familiar Japanese koi. With their different color patterns, they bring a splash of color to wherever they’re kept.
And while the average koi will live for an impressive three decades, if some of them could talk, they could tell stories dating back over the centuries. One fish, Hanako, was judged to be 226 years old at the time of her death. Hopefully she didn’t get bored in that small pond!
7. Orange Roughy – Up To 250 Years
Next time you’re having a hankering for seafood, think carefully before you savor the orange roughy. This species in particular takes a long time to reach maturity and grows quite slowly, which means that commercial fishing of the orange roughy can be quite damaging and can put a bad dent in its population.
By counting the growth rings of the fish’s ear bone, scientists have been able to age certain specimens to well over 120 years old. And strap yourselves in, because it doesn’t even stop there. An orange roughy from New Zealand was aged at 230 years old, and one from Tasmania lived to 250!
6. Aldabra Tortoise – Up To 255 Years
When it comes to size, Galápagos tortoises have their cousins, the Aldabra tortoises, beat. But it turns out, though the Aldabra tortoises don’t snag the headlines, they can actually live even longer than their more famous lumbering South American relatives.
The Aldabra tortoises are exceptionally rare, living only on one particular island chain within the Seychelles, off the coast of East Africa. One alive today, called Jonathan, has made an utterly mind-blowing 187 trips around the sun. But Adwaita, who lived in Kolkata Zoo in India until he passed away in 2006, was said to have died at the ripe old age of 255.
5. Greenland Shark – (Possibly) Up To 392 Years
It has been found with the remains of moose, reindeer, and even polar bears in its stomach. It’s one of the biggest shark species out there, ranking in at around 20 feet. And its flesh is so toxic that eating it uncured can leave you extremely ill, if not blind drunk.
The Greenland shark holds the record as not only one of the oldest animals on Earth, but the longest-living vertebrate. One specimen studied in 2016 was dated to have been 392 years old, with a margin of error of 120 years. That means that at the bare minimum, it was still 272 years old.
4. Ocean Quahog Clam – Up To 507 Years
When you imagine what one of the oldest animals ever found on the planet could be, was the first thing that came to mind a simple clam? The ocean quahog clam is not only common in the waters of the North Atlantic, but it is regularly harvested as a food source, just like many other clam species.
Enter one impressive clam individual by the name of Ming. When it was discovered that this particular clam, dredged off the coast of Iceland, was in fact 507 years old, scientists couldn’t help but name it after the Ming dynasty in China, who reigned when it was born!
3. Sponges – Up To 10,000 Years
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea — for thousands upon thousands of years? Yes, your friendly, all-too-familiar neighborhood aquatic sponge clocks in as the oldest animal on Earth. No matter where you find them, they’re casually breaking all the records.
Antarctic sponges have been estimated to live around 1,550 years. Some specimens of the giant barrel sponge in the Caribbean Sea have exceeded 2,300 years in age. And there’s even some species of glass sponge that have everyone beat by a long shot: 10,000 years old, and still going! Sometimes, the quietest of creatures can be the most astounding.
2. Hydra – Immortal?
We can think of a few reality stars that might be jealous of the Hyrda. That’s because this tiny organism can live practically forever without showing any signs of aging or deterioration. Hydra often do not die of old age, but instead die of disease or from being eaten by predators. One study concluded that “an individual hydra can live forever under the right circumstances.”
That is a lot of power packed into such a small animal. The invertebrate known for its tube-like body with tiny tentacles sprouting from one end of it’s body – almost like a microscopic octopus – only grows to be about 0.4 inches, or 10 millimeters long.
1. The Immortal Jellyfish – Forever!
We can think of a lot of people who would want to become immortal, but not if that means they have to spend their endless lifetime as a floating jelly creature. The immortal jellyfish is scientifically known as the Turritopsis dohrnii, and is one of the most fascinating animals in the world, as its the only one that can age backwards.
Yes, that’s right. Immortal Jellyfish are able to grow from a young polyp all the way to being a full grown, mature, jelly adult, and then revert right back to infant form. This particular jellyfish is basically the Benjamin Button of the sea.
Honorable Mention 1: Tube Worms – Up To 250 Years
When people are looking for the secrets to a long life, some organisms prove that they need to dig a little bit deeper. But how deep? Well, the secret may lie all the way at the bottom of the ocean, where tubeworms are living and, frankly, thriving.
A recent study found that tubeworms specifically found at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico can live to be about 250 years old. They get all of their nutritional needs from bacteria floating around at the bottom of the sea. But they really have their slow aging to thank for their nearly never-ending lives.
Honorable Mention 2: Geoducks – Up To 160 Years
Geoducks are definitely the strangest looking animals to make it onto this list. These gigantic saltwater clams barely look like clams at all. While the shell of this clam is only about 6 inches long, its “neck” can reach up to 3.5 feet in length. But what is longer than a Geoduck’s neck?
Well, the answer to that question would be its lifespan. Typically, Geoducks can live up to 140 years. But for those lucky few Geoducks that defy the odds and do not become a dinner table delicacy can be even luckier. The oldest living Geoduck in history was 168 years old.
Honorable Mention 3: Shortraker Rockfish – Up To 157 Years
Do not let the word “short” in the Shortraker rockfish’s name deceive you. This long living fish can get pretty huge. They can grow to be over a meter in length and over 44 pounds in weight. And their life spans certainly are not short as well.
This specific rockfish is the second longest living of its species, just behind the Rougheye rockfish. On average, this specific type of rockfish has a life expectancy of 120 years, but there are some rockfish who have clocked in at an even older age. The oldest recorded Shortraker Rockfish was 157 years old.
Honorable Mention 4: Humans – Up To 122 Years
It might come as a surprise that humans made their way onto this list, but statistically, humans outlive many of their animal counterparts. The average human lifespan is only about 79 years of age, depending on where one lives, but the oldest human recorded clocked in at 122 years old.
That record setting person was named Jeanne Calment, a French born woman who passed away in 1997. Born in 1875, Jeanne predated the Eiffel Tower and even the telephone. She claimed to have had some pretty wacky health and beauty tricks, like using olive oil as a method for skincare. Hey, seems like it worked out pretty well.
Honorable Mention 5: Redbanded Rockfish – Up To 106 Years
Not to be mistaken with a Nemo fish, also known as an Ocellaris clownfish, these similarly banded rockfish are not fooling around when it comes to their age. The oldest Redbanded rockfish ever recorded in history was 106 years old. That’s a lot of swimming!
While many might assume that this long living fish would want to live out its younger years, this species reaches maturity at a surprisingly young age. A Redbanded Rockfish living off of the California coast can mature by just the age of 3 years old. These kids just grow up in the blink of an eye nowadays.
Honorable Mention 6: Longfin Eel – Up To 106 Years
These freshwater eels are found in New Zealand, but they are known worldwide for their long lives. Unlike many other eels, this specific species are known to live to be over 100 years old, but only some of these eels can be so lucky.
Unfortunately for male Longfin Eels, they only grow to an average age of 23 years old, usually passing away somewhere between the ages of 12 and 35. But female Longfin Eels are luckier in this instance and outlive their male counterparts. They are known to live much longer, with the oldest Longfin Eel ever reaching a record 106 years old.
Honorable Mention 7: Pacific Ocean Perch – Up To 98 Years
The Pacific Ocean Perch is also known as the Pacific Rockfish (yes, it is another rockfish on this list), the Rose fish, the Red bream or the Red perch, and is known to live in the North Pacific from California all the way to Japan.
This specific type of fish reaches such a long lifespan mostly due to its slow growth rate and its low rate of natural mortality. Since it is a popular fish for humans to consume, it often becomes the prey of fishermen. But if they are left to live out their long lives in the water, they can reach a maximum of 98 years old.
Honorable Mention 8: Laysan Albatross – Up To 98 Years
The Albatross has always attracted attention from birdwatchers, but a specific one named Wisdom became famous worldwide for her old age. Wisdom was hatched in 1951, but it was not until 1956 that her story became known, when a biologist named Chandler Robbins banded her and tracked her progress.
Wisdom had a band put onto her leg so that scientists could track her mating, locations, flight patterns, and other areas of interest. Years later, she was known to not only be the world’s longest banded bird, but she is also known for being the oldest bird in the entire world.
Honorable Mention 9: Orca – Up To 90 Years
In the rough and tumble world of the ocean, where it is “kill or be killed,” it should come as no surprise that the Ocra, also known as the killer whale, is able to outlast and outlive many of its peers.
Female killer whales are able to live longer than their male counterparts, and are able to live up until the age of 90 years old. They are also known to have much stronger familial bonds between them, which means that an Ocra has a whole support team around them. In some situations, as many as four generations of female killer whales can travel together.
Honorable Mention 10: Quillback Rockfish – Up To 90 Years
There are 130 species of rockfish known to man, and a handful of those rockfish have made it onto this list. As a species, these fish live impressively long lives. But the Quillback rockfish has a few other impressive qualities.
For example, these Quillbacks are named for their sharp quills that are actually venomous, so they can be pretty dangerous creatures. Maybe that quality, or their ability to perfectly blend in with their surroundings, lends to a longer life. But while the oldest recorded Quillback rockfish in history only made it to age 32, scientists say that they have reason to believe that they can live for up to 90 years.
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