Humans can live up to 100+ years – which is pretty remarkable. But, some animals even outlive us. Here are the top 10 longest-living animals in the world.

Please keep in mind that the list below can change anytime with newly discovered individuals. Determining an animal’s age is not an easy task, and there can be undiscovered individuals (past or present) living way longer than recorded ones.

List of longest-living animals

10. Tuatara (More than 111 years)

Longest-living animals: Henry the Tuatara
Longest-living animals: A male tuatara named Henry, living at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, is still reproductively active at 111 years of age. By KeresH – Own work, CC BY 3.0, Link

An endemic reptile living in New Zealand, Tuataras (Sphenodon punctatus) mostly live around 60 years, but some experts think that they can live up to 200 years. One male specimen named Henry reportedly reproduced successfully for the first time at 111 years of age with an 80-year-old female.

9. Tortoises (190+ years)

Longest living animals: Jonathan the tortoise
Longest-living animals: A photograph of Jonathan, the tortoise at Plantation House on Saint Helena. Taken on 11 April 21. By Xben911 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Tortoises can live more than 100 years. A Seychelles giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea hololissa) named Jonathan is (as of 2021) 188 or 189 years old, which making him the oldest living land animal ever recorded. His age is estimated, though: he was “fully mature” when brought to Saint Helena in 1882, and “fully mature” means he was at least 50 years old.

Another tortoise, a female radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) named Tu’i Malila from Madagascar also claimed to be live for 189 years (1777-1966). According to the Guinness World Records, she is the all-time verified record holder for the world’s oldest tortoise.

Scientists think that some tortoises can live up to 250 years.

8. Red Sea Urchin (200+ years)

Longest-living animals: Red sea urchin
Longest-living animals: the Red sea urchin. By Kirt L. Onthank, CC BY 3.0, Link

Red Sea Urchins (scientific name: Strongylocentrotus franciscanus) can can live to be 100 years old, and some may reach 200 years or more. They live in the northeastern Pacific Ocean from Alaska to Baja California. They are the largest of all sea urchins.

They show no noticeable signs of ageing. The telomers (the part of cells that determine how you age) of red sea urchins don’t appear to shorten over time – as the ones in human cells do.

7. Bowhead whales (up to 211 years)

Longest-living animals: Bowhead Whale
Longest-living animals: A bowhead whale spyhops off the coast of western Sea of Okhotsk. By Olga Shpak – http://ria.ru/earth/20140219/995484804.html, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The bowhead whale (scientific name: Balaena mysticetus) has been recorded as the longest-lived mammal thanks to one male individual estimated to be 211 years-old.

According to researchers at CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Australia’s national science agency), the genome sequence revealed bowhead whales’ maximum lifespan to be 268 years. They can grow more than 20+ meters 7+ feet).

6. Koi Fish (up to 226 years)

Koi fish
Longest-living animals: Koi fish. This is not Hanako. Image: Pixabay

Most Koi fish have a lifespan of around 50 years. But, if they are well taken care of, they can achieve ages of 100-200 years.

But, a Koi fish named Hanako was reportedly 226 years old at the time of her death (July 7, 1977), far exceeding the average lifespan for her breed.

Hanako’s age was determined by examining microscopic rings on her scales.

5. Orange roughy (Greater than 140 years, up to 250 years)

Longest-living animals: Orange roughy
Longest-living animals: Orange roughy. By CSIRO, CC BY 3.0, Link

The orange roughy (scientific name: Hoplostethus atlanticus) is the only commercial animal species on this list. It is a relatively large deep-sea fish. They are thought to have a lifespan of greater than 140 years (source), up to 250 years.

4. Greenland Shark (250-500 years)

Greenland Shark
Longest-living animals: The Greenland Shark

The Greenland shark (scientific name: Somniosus microcephalus) has the longest known lifespan of all vertebrate species (estimated to be between 250 and 500 years).

It is also is one of the largest living species of shark – they usually grow 6.4 m (21 feet) long and weigh around 1,000 kg (2,200 lb), and possibly up to 7.3 m (24 feet) and more than 1,400 kg (3,100 lb).

They grow only at a rate of 0.5-1 cm (0.2-0.4 in) per year.

The Greenland shark has a sluggish look, with a thickset, cylindrical body and a small head with a short snout and tiny eyes. Their maximum speed is a lethargic 1.7 miles (2.7 km) per hour, and many are almost blind.

3. Ocean Quahogs (up to 507 years)

Longest-living animals: Ming, aka Hafrún
Longest-living animals: Left valve of Arctica islandica shell WG061294R collected from the north Icelandic shelf (Ming, aka Hafrún). By Alan D Wanamaker Jr1, Jan Heinemeier – James D Scourse – Christopher A Richardson1 – Paul G Butler – Jón Eiríksson – Karen Luise Knudsen – https://journals.uair.arizona.edu/index.php/radiocarbon/article/view/3222/pdf, CC BY 3.0, Link

The ocean quahog (scientific name: Arctica islandica) is a species of edible clam. Native to the North Atlantic Ocean, they can live up to 500 years!

Their slow life style results in exceptional longevity with a highest reported age, for Ming the clam (c. 1499-2006), of 507 years.

Also nicknamed Hafrún, it was the oldest individual (non-colonial) animal ever discovered whose age could be precisely determined. Unfortunately, Ming had previously been killed to detect its age.

Hafrún is an Icelandic word, actually a woman’s name which translates roughly as “the mystery of the ocean”.

2. Sponges (more than 200 years, up to 11,000 years)

Longest-living animals:  sponge
Longest-living animals: yes, sponges are animals – and they have a remarkable lifespan.

Most people often forget that sponges are actually animals, not plants. They can live more than 200 years.

There has been a sponge that lived up to 11,000 years! One study in the journal Aging Research Reviews, titled “Aging and longevity in the simplest animals and the quest for immortality” notes a deep-sea sponge from the species Monorhaphis chuni lived to be 11,000 years old.

1. Immortal jellyfish

Longest-living animals: The Immortal Jellyfish (Turritopsis dohrnii)
The longest-living animal in the world: the Immortal Jellyfish (Turritopsis dohrnii)

The longest-living animal in the world is the Immortal Jellyfish (scientific name: Turritopsis dohrnii). It is the only species on Earth that can live (theoretically, at least) an eternal life.

One of the most amazing and incredible organisms living in the oceans, the immortal jellyfish is capable of reverting completely to its polyp state (sexually immature stage) after having reached maturity, by a specific transformation process that requires the presence of certain cell types (tissue from both the jellyfish bell surface and the circulatory canal system). The process is kind of like a butterfly changing back to a caterpillar instead of dying, or an aged chicken turning back into an egg.

Many polyps of immortal jellyfish, though, do not make it to adulthood due to predators, illness, or starvation.

Immortal Jellyfish (Turritopsis dohrnii)

Related: Immortal Jellyfish – the only animal that can live eternally
This almost alien-like creature so incredible is that it is biologically immortal. It’s the only known animal capable of reverting completely to a sexually immature, colonial stage after having reached sexual maturity as a solitary individual.

Some misconceptions

Crows cannot live 200 years!

This is a common misconception. In fact, their lifespan is much shorter: only 8 years on average.

The oldest confirmed wild bird in the world is a female albatross named Wisdom.

She hatched around 1951, and in 1956, she was tagged by scientists as #Z333. Even as late as December 2020, when she was at least 70 years old, she laid an egg, and it hatched on February 1, 2021!

Longest-living animals: Wisdom the Albatross in 2011
Longest-living animals: Wisdom with one of her chicks, in March 2011. She was at least 60 years old when this photo was taken. By John Klavitter/U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service,Public Domain, Link

Elephants do not outlive their caretakers

Elephants can live for 60-70 years. Lin Wang, a captive male Asian elephant, lived for 86 years (1917-2003). But it’s a myth that elephants can live hundreds of years and outlive their caretakers.

Sources

M. Özgür Nevres

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