List of longest-living organisms

This is a list of the longest-living organisms; that is, the individual member(s) (or in some instances, clones) of a species. This may be, for a given species:

  1. Oldest known individuals that are currently alive, with verified ages
  2. Verified Record holders, such as the longest-lived human, Jeanne Louise Calment, or the longest-lived domestic cat, Creme Puff

Ordinarily, this does not consider the age of the species itself, comparing species by the range of age-span of their individuals, or the time between first appearance (speciation) and extinction of the species.

Biological immortality

If the mortality rate of a species does not increase after maturity, the species does not age and is said to be biologically immortal. Many examples exist of plants and animals for which the mortality rate actually decreases with age, for all or part of the lifecycle.[1]

If the mortality rate remains constant, the rate determines the mean lifespan. The lifespan can be long or short, though the species technically "does not age".

  • Hydra species were observed for four years without any increase in mortality rate.[2]

Other species have been observed to regress to a larval state and regrow into adults multiple times.

  • The hydrozoan species Turritopsis dohrnii (formerly Turritopsis nutricula) is capable of cycling from a mature adult stage to an immature polyp stage and back again. This means no natural limit to its lifespan is known.[3] However, no single specimen has been observed for any extended period, and estimating the age of a specimen is not possible by any known means.
  • At least one hydrozoan (Laodicea undulata[4]) and one scyphozoan (Aurelia sp.1[5]) can also revert from medusa stage into polyp stage.
  • The larvae of skin beetles undergo a degree of "reversed development" when starved, and later grow back to the previously attained level of maturity. The cycle can be repeated many times.[6]

Revived into activity after stasis

  • Various claims have been made about reviving bacterial spores to active metabolism after millions of years. Claims have been made of spores from amber being revived after 40 million years,[7] and spores from the salt deposits in New Mexico being revived after 240 million years, the longest living organisms in history.[8][9] In a related find, a scientist was able to coax 34,000-year-old salt-captured bacteria to reproduce. His results were duplicated at a separate independent laboratory facility.[10]
  • In July 2018, scientists from four Russian institutions collaborating with Princeton University reported that they had analyzed about 300 prehistoric worms recovered from permafrost above the Arctic Circle in Sakha Republic, and that after being thawed, two of the nematodes revived and began moving and eating. One found in a Pleistocene squirrel burrow in the Duvanny Yar outcrop on the Kolyma River was believed to be about 32,000 years old, while the other, recovered in 2015 near the Alazeya River, was dated at approximately 41,700 years old. These nematodes were believed to be the oldest living multicellular animals on Earth.[11]
  • A seed from the previously extinct Judean date palm was revived and managed to sprout after nearly 2,000 years. Named 'Methuselah', it is currently growing at Kibbutz Keturah, Israel.[12]
  • Silene stenophylla was grown from fruit found in an ancient squirrel's cache. The germinated plants bore viable seeds. The fruit was dated to be 31,800 years old ± 300 years.[13]
  • In 1994, a seed from a sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), dated at roughly 1,300 years old ± 270 years, was successfully germinated.[14][15]
  • During the 1990s, Raul Cano, a microbiologist at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, revived yeast trapped in amber for 25 million years.[16] Cano went on to found a brewery and crafted an "amber ale" with a 45-million-year-old variant of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.[17]

List of longest-living organisms


Some endoliths have extremely long lives. In August 2013, researchers reported evidence of endoliths in the ocean floor, perhaps millions of years old, with a generation time of 10 millennia.[18] These are slowly metabolizing, not in a dormant state.

Some Actinobacteria found in Siberia are estimated to be half a million years old.[19][20][21]

Clonal plant and fungal colonies

As with all long-lived plant and fungal species, no individual part of a clonal colony is alive (in the sense of active metabolism) for more than a very small fraction of the life of the entire colony. Some clonal colonies may be fully connected via their root systems, while most are not actually interconnected, but are genetically identical clones which populated an area through vegetative reproduction. Ages for clonal colonies, often based on current growth rates, are estimates.[22]

Individual plant specimens

Aquatic animals

  • The giant barrel sponge Xestospongia muta is one of the longest-lived animals, with the largest specimens in the Caribbean estimated to be in excess of 2,300 years old.[54]
  • The black coral Antipatharia in the Gulf of Mexico may live more than 2,000 years.[55]
  • The Antarctic sponge Cinachyra antarctica has an extremely slow growth rate in the low temperatures of the Southern Ocean. One specimen has been estimated to be 1,550 years old.[56]
  • A specimen, "Ming" of the Icelandic cyprine Arctica islandica (also known as an ocean quahog), a mollusk, was found to have lived 507 years.[57] Another specimen had a recorded lifespan of 374 years.[58]
  • Greenland shark had been estimated to live to about 200 years, but a study published in 2016 found that a 5.02 m (16.5 ft) specimen was 392 ± 120 years old, resulting in a minimum age of 272 and a maximum of 512.[59][60] That makes the Greenland shark the longest-lived vertebrate.[61]
  • The maximum life-span of the freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) may be 210–250 years.[62][63][64]
  • Some koi fish have reportedly lived more than 200 years, the oldest being Hanako, which some claim died at an age of 226 years on July 7, 1977, but this age estimate is based on a scale estimate[65][66] and is inadequate.[67]
  • Some confirmed sources estimate bowhead whales to have lived at least to 211 years of age, making them the oldest mammals.[68]
  • Rougheye rockfish can reach an age of 205 years.[69]
  • Specimens of the Red Sea urchin Strongylocentrotus franciscanus have been found to be over 200 years old.[70]
  • Many sub-families of the marine fish Oreosomatidae, including the Allocyttus, Neocyttus, and Pseudocyttus (collectively referred to as the Oreos) have been reported to live up to 170 years, based on otolith-increment estimates and radiometric dating[71][72][73]
  • The deepsea hydrocarbon seep tubeworm Lamellibrachia luymesi (Annelida, Polychaeta) lives for more than 170 years.[74]
  • Geoduck, a species of saltwater clam native to the Puget Sound, have been known to live more than 160 years.[75][76]
  • A Swedish man claimed that a European eel named Ale was 155 years old when it died in 2014. If correct, it would have been the world's oldest, having been hatched in 1859.[77]
  • Orange roughy, also known as deep sea perch, can live up to 149 years.[78]
  • George the lobster was estimated to be about 140 years old by PETA in January 2009.[79]
  • In 2012, a sturgeon estimated to be 125 years old was caught in a Wisconsin river.[80]
  • Tardigrades, capable of cryptobiosis, have been shown to survive nearly 120 years in a dry state.[81]
  • The Bigmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus), a freshwater fish in the Family Catostomidae, has a maximum longevity of at least 112 years based on otolith annulus counts and radiocarbon dating.[82]
  • A killer whale of the "Southern Resident Community" identified as J2 or Granny was estimated by some researchers to have been approximately 105 years old at her death in 2017; however, other dating methods estimated her age as 65–80.[83][84]


  • Jeanne Calment lived to the age of 122 years, 164 days, becoming the oldest recorded human who ever lived. She died on August 4, 1997.[85]
  • The oldest known person alive today is Kane Tanaka at 116 years, 340 days (born 2 January 1903).[86]

These are single examples; for a broader view, see Life expectancy (includes humans).

Other terrestrial and pagophilic animals

See also

Further reading

Rachel Sussman (2014). The Oldest Living Things in the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226057507.


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