We humans think we’re pretty special with our average 70-something year lifespan. But there are some animals out there that would pity our short, insignificant lives. What’s their secret? Well, there seem to be a few. First, most of these species live in the water. A lot of them seem to like cold temperatures. Also, there are only two mammals on the list. Finally, with few exceptions, the animals on this list are fairly simple, at least compared to humans. But how long do these amazing creatures actually live? Read on to find out.
#14 Long Finned Eel
The average lifespan of the Long Finned Eel is around 60 years. But there are records for some that have lived as long as 106 years. The secret seems to be that they grow very, very slowly. The Long Finned Eel is native to New Zealand and Australia.
#13 African Elephant
African Elephants are the longest-lived land animals. They are one of the exceptions to the low intelligence trend of the animals on this list. Elephants have a complicated brain structure, much like humans and dolphins. Many regard elephants as among the most intelligent animals on Earth. Also, they have an average lifespan of 70 years. If that’s not enough, females can remain fertile throughout their entire lives! The oldest elephant ever recorded was Lin Wang of the Taipei Zoo. Lin Wang passed away at the ripe old age of 86.
Macaws are another of the exceptions to the intelligence trend. These boisterous birds have a measured intelligence equal to a human child of between three and eight years of age. Macaws can live up to 80 years. So if you’re thinking about having a parrot as a pet, you’d better ask your kids how they feel about it.
The Geoduck is a large, burrowing saltwater clam. They are native to the Puget Sound area in Washington State. Geoducks have been known to live for over 160 years. The oldest recorded Geoduck lived 168 years.
#10 Galapagos Giant Tortoise
The Galapagos Giant Tortoise is the largest living tortoise. It has a lifespan of long past one hundred. The most famous Galapagos Tortoise was “Lonesome George,” who, at 100 years old, was considered a young adult! (Lonesome George was a Pinta Island Tortoise, a subspecies of Galapagos Giant Tortoises.) The Galapagos Tortoise was one of the species that helped inspire Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection. The longest-lived Galapagos Tortoise on record lived 170 years.
These reptiles, which are native to New Zealand, are living fossils. There are currently two remaining species. These species are the only surviving members of the order Rhynchocephalia, which flourished 200 million years ago. Which means that their species predated the dinosaurs. Individual Tuataras are also among the longest-lived vertebrates on Earth, with a lifespan of up to 200 years.
The average lifespan of these colorful carp is 25 to 30 years. However, there are reports of Koi that have lived for more than 200 years. One famous Koi in Japan, Hanako, lived to be 226. Scientists determined her age by studying the growth rings in one of her scales. At the time of her death, Hanako was older than the United States of America!
#7 Red Sea Urchin
They say seaweed is good for you, and it must be true. The Red Sea Urchin, which feeds primarily on kelp, can live for more than 200 years. Some believe these spiny little guys to be basically immortal. Red Sea Urchins live in the shallow waters of the Pacific Ocean, along the west coast of North America.
#6 Bowhead Whale
The average lifespan of the Bowhead whale is 200 years. Which means that many live a lot longer than that. The Bowhead whale is one of the largest mammals on Earth, second only to the Blue Whale. They’re tough, too. One Bowhead was discovered with a one-hundred-year-old harpoon embedded in its skin! The Bowhead is also called the Arctic Whale. It lives its entire life in Arctic waters, unlike other species, which migrate southward to feed or reproduce.
#5 Lamellibrachia Tube Worms
Also called the Giant Tube Worm, these colorful creatures are fascinating in many ways — and not just because they can live for more than 250 years. The Giant Tube Worm lives in cold, deep water, along with hydrocarbon vents on the ocean floor. And “Giant” doesn’t even begin to describe it. Imagine a worm that can grow up to 10 feet in length! But don’t worry. They don’t eat people or even fish. The Giant Tube Worm gets nutrition from a complicated chemical process involving bacteria and hydrogen sulfide in their environments.
#4 Greenland Shark
The Greenland Shark is another cold water species. They live in the chilly waters of the Arctic and North Atlantic Oceans. Recently, scientists analyzed eye tissue samples of several captured Greenland Sharks and found individuals ranging in age from 272 to 392 years. Also, scientists believe it’s possible that the Greenland Shark could live up to 512 years! Like the Long Finned Eel, the Greenland Shark grows very slowly. And this, scientists believe, may be the key to its longevity.
#3 Ocean Quahog
The Ocean quahog is an edible clam that lives in the North Atlantic. There are plenty of them about, and they are a popular food source. They are also incredibly long-lived. Some specimens have come in at over 400 years old. You might have heard of the Ocean Quahog named Ming. Ming’s name came from the fact that it was born during the Ming Dynasty. When Ming died in 2006, it was 507 years old! Ming was the oldest living animal ever recorded.
#2 Turritopsis Nutricula Jellyfish
Some have called the Turritopsis Nutricula the “Immortal Jellyfish.” This is because when this hardy creature experiences stress or injury, it can revert to its premature state — basically “start over.” As a result, there may be no natural limit to its lifespan. It doesn’t mean that the Turritopsis cannot be killed, but rather that it is “biologically immortal.” That is that it could live forever, provided something doesn’t kill or eat it first.
Are sponges animals? Or are they something you wash the car with? You may have a bit more respect for them when you realize that to many species of sponge, your lifespan is a blink of the eye. There are recorded specimens of the Antarctic Sponge, for example, with an estimated age of 1,550 years. And one documented example of a sponge from the species Monorhaphis chuni clocked in at 11,000 years! Which means that when that sponge was born, humans were still trying to figure out agriculture. Kind of puts your puny problems in perspective, doesn’t it?