As humans, most people feel lucky to reach the ripe old age of 85 or 90. One hundred is seen as a blessing. According to Guinness World Records, Jeanne Louise Calment was the world’s oldest woman, living 122 years and 164 days.
But for some species, 100 years is nothing. Some animals live longer than humans could even dream about, watching not decades go by, but centuries.
These are some of the longest living animals on the planet and what you should know about them.
The Ocean Quahog
The ocean quahog, Arctica islandica, is an edible clam that lives in the North Atlantic Ocean and has a reputation for growing quite old. The oldest known ocean quahog, who was affectionately called Ming, lived to be 507 years old.
The Greenland Shark
The Greenland shark, which is sometimes called the grey shark, lives in the Arctic and northern Atlantic Oceans. It’s one of the larger species of shark and has the longest known lifespan of any vertebrate on Earth, living roughly 392 years. Although the meat is considered a delicacy in Iceland, it must be treated to reduce the toxicity levels; on its own, the tissue has high concentrations of trimethylamine N-oxide, a compound not friendly to human systems.
The Bowhead Whale
One of the longest-living mammals, the bowhead whale can live for over 200 years. Their habitat is credited with providing the whales with their extended lifespan. Bowhead whales live in the extreme cold of the Arctic Ocean and, therefore, have a slowed metabolism. This has slowed the process of aging and given the animals a long, lengthy life.
The Giant Tortoises
In general, giant tortoises have rather long life spans. While many live to be 150, specific individuals have exceeded that by many years. The oldest known giant tortoise was named Tu’i Malia when he was gifted as a young tortoise to the Tongan royal family by Captain Cook in 1777. Tu’i lived a long life, dying of natural causes on May 19, 1965, at 188 years old.
The African Elephant
The African elephant is more than just the largest land animal; it’s also known for living a long life. African elephants live up to 70 years, 10 years longer than their Asian counterparts. What’s more, these elephants have a brain that is structurally similar to humans, giving them strong memories, self-recognition, and the ability to feel both grief and empathy.
The Koi Fish
While the average koi fish lives 23-30 years, some individual koi an enormous length of time. Hanako, perhaps the most famous koi fish, lived in Japan and, according to the growth rings on its scales, was 226 when it died in 1977.
A favorite among bird lovers, the macaw has one of the longest life spans of the feathered folk. Native to Central and South America, it takes a commitment to turn these beauties into pets. That’s because, although these birds live between 30 and 35 years in the wild, their life span expands to 60 or 70 years in captivity. Some have even been reported to live more than 100 years.
While there are conflicting reports of the world’s oldest eel, there’s no doubt that these sea creatures have a rather lengthy life. In the wild, eels often die between 15 and 20, but in captivity, their lives appear to extend quite a bit. A man in Sweden claimed to have a pet eel that lived to be 155 years old, while a Swedish aquarium housed one that reached 85.
The Lamelibrachia Tubeworm
The Lamelibrachia tubeworm lives in the Gulf of Mexico and can live up to 250 years. The tubeworm grows slowly, less than one centimeter a year. But after a couple hundred years, these guys can reach over 10 feet in length. These sedentary worms live in secreted, wavy, off-white tubes, and have plumes of deep red.
Looking at these animals, you must wonder what their secret is—what can you learn about living a long, fulfilling life? You can harden your shell like the clam or slow things down like the bowhead whale. Maybe you slowly stand for longevity like the tortoise or boast brightly and beautifully like the macaw. Regardless of the path you take, if you live a long life, you’ll be in good company with this bunch, some of the longest living animals on the planet.
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