Spending more time in 2020 thinking about your mortality? Same here. But scientists believe the first person to live to 200 has already been born. Our attitude about life expectancy and the inevitability of death may be more cultural than scientific. Age-researchers say that our genes aren’t programmed to die, but they also are not designed for unusually long life. In nature, longevity rarely affects the lifespan of animals. Most prey animals get killed and eaten before they reach their maximum lifespan. Predators die from illness, injury, or humans. But some animals are experts at repairing damage to their bodies. Theirs lives span centuries, the way humans will, soon. Here are five of the longest living animals in the world.
Okay, you can live for five centuries, but it has to be in the cold, dark waters of Greenland, worth it? Also known as grey or gurry sharks, they grow throughout their lives as a constant rate of one centimeter per year. Back in 2017, scientists discovered an 18-foot shark in the Arctic Ocean’s frigid waters and knew that it meant something exceptional. These sharks are the longest living vertebrates on the planet. But again, they live all 500 of those years in the Arctic Ocean.
There’s no telling how old the Icelandic species of clam might get, because researchers killed this one, named Ming, to find out just how old it was. Like trees, you can tell the age of Quahogs by counting the rings on their shells. But to do that, you have to open them up and kill them. There’s an entire history of humans killing old things to find out their age. Like Donal Currey who killed a Bristlecone pine to discover it was the oldest in the world after counting its 4,848 rings.
This whale is the longest living mammal on the planet. These whales also live in the cold, dark waters of the Arctic. Which again; is it worth it? Scientists found one of these whales that had a 150-year-old harpoon head lodged in its neck. They believe whalers attacked when it was just a few years old. The whale survived the assault and lived for over 100 years with the point embedded in its flesh. It’s not uncommon for scientists to find antique harpoons in bowheads. Whalers hunted the animals through thick sheets of ice, and the whales have dense bones and thick blubber that protected their vital organs during attacks.
Guess where these fish live? That’s right, the Alaska Coast. A sport fisherman, Henry Liebman, was thrilled to catch the record-holding, 40-pound fish back in 2013. It’s such a bummer people keep killing the biggest, oldest stuff they can find.
This is the type of longevity that interests me. Sure, shave off four hundred years from the Greenland Shark, but tack on a tropical climate. Also, a lifestyle of which I’m already adept; napping 16 hours a day and constant grazing. Galapagos tortoises live so long thanks to slow metabolisms and few contemporary predators. Sailors devastated the tortoise population on Galapagos after the discovery of the islands, killing over 100,000 animals and driving five species to extinction.