The average lifespan of a human is a mere 79 years. While that’s a lot longer than creatures like cicadas live for, there are other types of animals on this planet that make our lives seem short. Most people don’t know that there are animals that live among us that can live for hundreds of years even! There is even one animal that has achieved immortality and would live forever without predators. From birds to marine life, the longest living animals on earth exist throughout the various habitats of the animal kingdom. In this article we’ll take a look at 14 of the longest living animals on the planet.
Let’s get to it!
14 of the Longest Living Animals
Starting with koi fish that can live 40 years going all the way to a species that is believed to be immortal, here is a list of long-lived animals. We’ll look at some pictures and learn about each one’s average lifespan. If there’s a longest living living specimen on record then we’ll mention that as well.
1. Koi Fish
Average Life Span: 40 years
This colorful version of a common carp can live a very long time. They are very popular in Japan and often symbolize different things based on their coloring.
A Koi fish’s life expectancy typically depends on their environment and how happy they are. If they have suitable habitats, then they can live around 200 years and become a pet that is passed from generation to generation.
The longest living Koi fish, Hanako, died in 1977 and was 226 years old.
Average Life Span: 50 years
Macaws are the longest living type of parrot and are known for outliving their owners. While their average lifespan is 50 years, it is not uncommon for a Macaw to live 80 to 100 years. Macaws with blue and gold feathers tend to live the longest.
While you can find macaws in the Amazon Rain Forest, you will be hard-pressed to find one as every species of Macaw is either threatened, endangered or extinct. This is largely attributed to illegal bird trapping, as Macaws do not have many natural predators.
Charlie, who has been controversially linked as Winston Churchill’s pet, was still alive at the age of 117 years old in 2019.
Average Life Span: 60 years
This reptile is the only living member of the order Rhynchocephalia, whose heritage traces back almost 200 million years ago to the Mesozoic era. Tuatara have been known to live up to 100 years in the wild and can attribute the longevity of their lifespan to their slow metabolism and maturation.
Tuatara get their name from the spiny crests along their back that are more prominent in males. These crests are made of triangular folds of skin and are raised while trying to attract a partner or during confrontations.
Tuatara can also reproduce for an astoundingly long time. While they don’t mature sexually until their late 20s, Henry the Tuatara produced off spring at the ripe old age of 110.
4. African Elephant
Average Life Span: 60 years
African elephants are the world’s largest land animal and live for a surprisingly long time considering they weigh over 6 tons.
These elephants are extremely smart and have an excellent memories, often holding grudges for their entire lives. Their gestation period is more than double that of a human at 22 months.
African elephants in the wild tend to be about 15 years longer than their counterparts held in zoos. For comparison, the oldest African elephant in North America died at 56 in 2020, but those in the wild commonly live to as old as 70.
5. Galapagos Tortoises
Average Life Span: 100 years
Galapagos tortoises can weigh up to a whopping 900lbs and are one of the longest living species of vertebrates. Their longevity can be accredited to their slow metabolism and slow maturation. It takes a Galapagos tortoise 20 to 25 years to even develop its shell. Additionally, their metabolism is so slow that they can go a whole year without eating.
The oldest known Galapagos tortoise, Harriet, died in 2006 at more than 170 years old.
6. Red Sea Urchin
Average Life Span: 100 years
Red sea urchins are the porcupine of the sea, with long spines sticking out every which way to help deter predators from attacking them. They are the largest urchin and can vary in color from a deep burgundy to a true red.
While some believe that the red sea urchin is a stationary creature, they actually have tubed feet that can be extended via a water vascular system that they can then use to walk along the ocean floor.
Red sea urchins can only be found in the Pacific Ocean and prefer rocky sub-tidal habitats. While their average lifespan is about 100 years, they can live as long as 200 years.
7. Geoduck Clam
Average Life Span: 140 years
This large burrowing clam is abundant in the inland waters of Alaska, Washington, and British Columbia and is very popular with recreational harvesters. They grow very fast during their first years of life and the body of the clam can grow up to 3 feet long.
While the typical lifespan of a geoduck clam is 140 years, they have been known to live to be as old as 168.
8. Orange Roughy
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Average Life Span: 140 years
These deep ocean dwellers live about 3,000 feet below the surface and have been known to live for 245 years. They have historically been referred to as “slime-heads” because of the mucous producing canals on their heads.
Their longevity is linked with a slow maturation. They are unable to reproduce until at least the age of 20. In the 1980s the orange roughy became a popular main dish in New Zealand and Australia. In fact, they were harvested so quickly that their slow reproduction rate was unable to keep up with the demand, putting them on the endangered species list.
9. Bowhead Whales
Average Life Span: 200+ years
The bowhead whale is the longest living mammal on Earth. They are also known as the arctic whale due to their preference of living in the freezing arctic ocean year-round.
These are massive creatures as they can grow up to 60 feet in length and weigh as much as 220,000 pounds. Despite their size bowhead whales can still launch themselves completely out of the water.
While previously believed to only live up to about 100 years of age, new technology has found that these whales actually live closer to 200 on average. The oldest bowhead whale on record is believed to be 268!
10. Lamellibrachia Tube Worm
Average Life Span: 210 years
These large sedentary worms live in the Gulf of Mexico due to its abundance of cold seep, hydrocarbon vents. Lamellibrachia tube worms can grow up to 6 feet long and only grow about 85 centimeters per year. These giant tube worms have been known to live as long as 250 years.
11. Greenland Shark
Average Life Span: 250 years
Greenland sharks are slow moving, deep sea dwellers. They move at a rate of about 1 km per hour and have been spotted as deep as 7,200 feet below sea level.
These sharks have been identified as the longest living vertebrate. They are also very slow to develop as they do not even fully reach full sexual maturity until about 100 years of age and only grow at about one centimeter every year.
While it is difficult to precisely identify a Greenland shark’s age, scientists believe they have found one who was 392 years old.
12. Ocean Quahog
Average Life Span: 400+ years
These bivalve mollusks mostly live in the Western Atlantic Ocean as far North as Newfoundland and South as North Carolina. Ocean quahogs bury themselves at the bottom of the ocean floor and can filter water at an astounding rate of 1 gallon per hour.
The oldest living quahog, Ming, was determined to have lived to be 507 years-old making her the oldest living non-colonial animal in the world. For reference, a colonial animal is one that is comprised of multiple animals called polyps.
13. Antarctic Sponge
Average Life Span: 1,550 years
These sponges live in freezing conditions at depths of up to 6,500 feet. Their longevity can be attributed to the cold temperatures, which slow down their growth and other biological processes. A study done in 2002 estimated that one of these animals could live for 15,000 years.
14. Immortal Jellyfish
Average Life Span: ∞
The Turritopsis dohrnnii, otherwise known as the immortal jellyfish, is a type of jellyfish that can cycle from a mature stage to an immature polyp, meaning it may potentially be capable of living forever.
While predators and other unnatural causes of death are a threat, the immortal jellyfish has found a way around these threats as well. If they experience stress from a change in their natural environment or injury the can revert back to their original polyp stage.
Additionally, they have evolved to ride on the bottom of cargo ships in order to move from a location that may be a perceived threat. While there is still a lot to be learned from Turritopsis dohrnnii, science may have discovered the first immortal living creature.