There are a few animals that can live to a strikingly old age, from the 507 year old ‘Ming The Clam’, to the 392 year old ‘Greenland shark’. Continue reading to learn about five of the oldest known animals, and the fascinating lives they’ve had!
Image: Shedd Aquarium
Granddad The Lungfish Of 109 Years
Let’s start with the worlds oldest aquarium fish, who was Granddad, the Australian lungfish. Once he passed on, a study used a DNA-based method to discover that Granddad was 109 years old!
It is said that Grandad lived a remarkable life. In 1933, he made the 20-day voyage from Australia to the Chicago World’s Fair in the United States, where more than 100 million people visited him in the John G. Shedd Aquarium.
As the name hints, Australian lungfish have a rare ability to breathe from a single lung during droughts or when water quality becomes poor. This now endangered species has a deeply ancient lineage, and is the closest living relative to all land-based “tetrapods”!
Cocky Bennett The Cockatoo Of 119 Years
Another incredibly long-lived Aussie animal was a cockatoo named Cocky Bennett, who lived to 119! Cocky lived at the Sea Breeze Hotel in Blakehurst, New South Wales, and even had a tribute written in the newspaper in 1916 when he died.
In the tribute, it was said that Cocky would often say “one at time gentlemen, please” when other birds harassed him, and “one feather more and I’ll fly”. How funny! Apparently Cocky also accompanied a ship captain on his seafaring journeys for 78 years, and reportedly circled the earth seven times!
Sadly, due to a disease, Cocky was nearly featherless for the last twenty years of his life, and had a long, twisted beak.
Jonathan The Tortoise Of 190 Years
Residing in the Seychelles, Jonathan the giant tortoise currently holds the record for the longest living land animal!
Jonathan is estimated to have hatched in 1832, according to a letter that mentions he arrived “fully grown” on St. Helena in 1882 from the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, as a gift to Sir William Grey-Wilson. “Fully grown” in turtle context meant at least 50 years.
Since then, Jonathan has wandered and grazed the gardens of Plantation House, the governor's residence, where he has seen 31 governors hold office! New research suggests that tortoises may be long-lived thanks to their extra protection from their shells. A lack of predators may also play an important role.
Image: National Geographic
The Greenland Shark Of 392 Years
Little is known about the Greenland shark species, which is thought to be the longest-lived animal with a backbone. Researchers used radiocarbon dating to determine that one was 392 years old! The team found that the sharks grow at just 1cm a year, and reach sexual maturity at about the age of 150.
Greenland sharks are big creatures, that can grow up to 5m in length. They can be found swimming slowly, throughout the cold, deep waters of the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans. With this leisurely pace of life and sluggish growth rate, it’s thought the freezing polar waters may play a role in their longevity, potentially slowing down their metabolism.
Image: Bangor University
Ming The Clam Of 507 Years
Last but not least, the worlds oldest animal was Ming, who was a clam! At 507 years of age, Ming the clam broke the Guinness World Record as the oldest animal in the world. Collected off the coast of Iceland in 2006, he was named after the Chinese dynasty in power when he was born in 1499.
Ming’s age was confirmed by counting growth bands on his shell, in the same way you’d count the rings of a tree. How fascinating is that? Very little is known about why this mysterious ocean quahog can live such a long life, but similar to the Greenland shark, it’s thought the colder waters may have a role in its long lifespan.
Have you heard of any of these intriguing, long-lived animals? Which one do you find the most peculiar? Let us know in the comments!
For more impressive facts about unique animals, head over to our Eco News category and check out the blogs below!