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15 Examples of the Shortest Living Animals

How long an animal survives depends on its food sources, size, defensive capabilities, and more. However, just because an animal has a short life span doesn’t mean their species is endangered or unable to thrive. Plenty of species live less than a year but can be found abundantly or even seen as household pests. The key is in their ability to reproduce successfully, and some animals die immediately after mating. Learn more about the 15 shortest living animals, including how long their short lives last and interesting facts about them.

15 shortest living animals

From the shortest living bird to an animal that lives in an adult form for less than a day, find out if you’ve heard of these shortest living species.

1. Ruby-throated hummingbird

Ruby throated hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird | image by Kevin Winn via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Scientific name: Archilochus colubris
  • Average lifespan: 3-5 years

Although the oldest known ruby-throated hummingbird lived to be 9 years, that is a rare situation. These small birds commonly live only 3 to 5 years, making them one of the shortest-lived bird species known. They are solitary birds that can migrate long distances across the Gulf of Mexico and will only come together temporarily as pairs to mate.

2. Least weasel

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  • Scientific name: Mustela nivalis
  • Average Lifespan: 1-2 years

These weasels are one of the smallest carnivorous predators. Although they can live an average of 6 years in captivity, they typically survive only 1 to 2 years in the wild.

They make up for their short lifespan by having up to three litters per year, with up to 13 kits per litter. Due to risks from predators, most of the young kits in the 2nd or 3rd litters don’t make it to the age of weaning.

3. Muller’s giant Sunda rat

  • Scientific name: Sundamys muelleri
  • Average Lifespan: 6-12 months

Although the Muller’s giant Sunda rat can live longer in captivity, their lifespan in the wild is typically around 6 months. They are among the shortest-lived mammal species. These rats are found in southeast Asian countries and grow around 9.4 inches long.

4. Dragonfly

Dragonfly
Dragonfly Image by liggraphy from Pixabay
  • Scientific family: Anisoptera
  • Average lifespan: 4-6 months

With around 5,000 different species around the world, dragonflies have an average lifespan of only four to six months as adults. In contrast, their nymph stage can last up to 5 years. However, it’s typical that their lives are cut even shorter due to harsh climate conditions, such as strong winds, and predators like spiders, lizards, birds, and frogs.

5. Labord’s chameleon

Labord's chameleon
Male Labord’s Chameleon | image by Frank Vassen via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Furcifer labordi
  • Average lifespan: 4-5 months

When it comes to pet lizards, chameleons are known to be the shortest-living species – especially the Labord’s chameleon, which has the shortest lifespan among tetrapods. Although they spend around eight months in eggs, these lizards will live only 4 to 5 months after hatching. They typically hatch in November and reach sexual maturity by January.

6. Dwarf pygmy goby

  • Scientific name: Pandaka pygmaea
  • Average lifespan: 2 months

The pygmy goby has one of the shortest lifespans among vertebrate animals, living up to 59 days or just under two months. These tiny coral-reef fish grow up to only 0.8 inches long during this period. They spend nearly half their lives (around three weeks) as larvae in the open ocean before settling on a coral reef to grow to sexual maturity.

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7. Honey bee

Honey bee
Honey bee Image by PollyDot from Pixabay
  • Scientific Family: Apidae
  • Average lifespan: 2 months (drone bees)

Female worker honey bee’s lifespan varies depending on their workload. During busy summer months, they live only 5-6 weeks but can live 5 months or longer during the winter with increased fat supplies.

However, male drone bees tend to have the short end of the stick. They die minutes or hours after mating and unsuccessful maters are the first to be killed or kicked out of hives when there are limited resources. The average honeybee has a lifespan of around eight weeks.

8. House fly

House fly
The House Fly! | image by House fly via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Musca domestica
  • Average Lifespan: 15-30 days

House flies typically don’t live beyond a month, even in warm temperatures and optimal living conditions. Generally, the flies living in households with plenty of food will survive up to 30 days.

During their lifespan, females can lay 5-6 batches of eggs, totaling around 1,000 eggs.

9. Ant

Ant
Ant Image by Ronny Overhate from Pixabay
  • Scientific Family: Formicidae
  • Average lifespan: up to 3 weeks (drone ants)

Although an ant colony can exist for years, not all individuals enjoy a long lifespan. Male drone ants and female worker ants tend to have significantly shorter lifespans than queen ants.

For example, the fire ant workers live only around 5 weeks, whereas the queen can live 2-6 years easily. Male drone ants are among the most short-lived caste since they die after mating and this can occur within a few days of existence.

10. Common fruit fly

Fruit Fly | image by Rolf Dietrich Brecher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Drosophila melanogaster
  • Average lifespan: 2 weeks

Fruit flies may seem abundantly annoying, but these small insects don’t live very long. Typically, adults will live around 2 weeks even with proper food access. However, some individuals can live up to 40 or 50 days in the right temperature and environment. Adult females will lay up to 2,000 eggs at a time, and the eggs hatch into tiny larvae within 30 hours.

11. Indianmeal moth

 

Indianmeal moth on top of cereals
Indianmeal moth on top of cereals | image by U.S. Department of Agricult via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Plodia interpunctella
  • Average lifespan: 1-2 weeks

The Indianmeal moth or pantry moth lives as an adult for only 1 to 2 weeks. Their entire lifecycle from egg to larvae, cocoon, and the adult moth can be as little as one month, depending on the environment and temperatures. These common pests, especially in Florida, are often mistaken for weevils and will feed on pantry items such as flour, pasta, breakfast cereal, and other dry goods.

12. Mosquito

Mosquito
Mosquito Image by Егор Камелев from PixabayImage by Егор Камелев from Pixabay
  • Scientific family: Culicidae
  • Average lifespan: 6-10 days (male)

The entire lifecycle of a mosquito can range from 4 days to a month, with pupae developing into adult mosquitoes in 2-3 days. Typically male mosquitoes are shorter-lived than females, averaging around 6 to 10 days after becoming an adult. In contrast, females can consume blood for added nutrients to lay eggs and, with adequate food supply, can live up to 5 months or longer.

13. Luna moth

Luna moth
Luna moth Image by Naturelady from Pixabay
  • Scientific name: Actias luna
  • Average lifespan: 7 days

Also known as the giant silk moth, the beautiful, lime-green luna moth lives around only a week after they emerge from the cocoon as an adult. Males will fly long distances to mate, if necessary, and females will die once they lay their eggs. These bright-colored moths can grow up to 7-inch wingspans and are a rare sight due to their nocturnal habits.

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14. Gastrotrich

  • Scientific phylum: Gastrotricha
  • Average lifespan: 3- 5 days

Gastrotrichs are microscopic aquatic worms that typically live in the spaces between sand grains. Their average lifespan is very short, with most individuals living only around three days. However, some can live up to 21 days. They have transparent bodies and both male and female organs for reproduction.

15. American sand-burrowing mayfly

  • Scientific name: Dolania americana
  • Average lifespan: 5 minutes to 2 hours

Among all mayfly species, the American sand-burrowing mayfly is one of the rarest and shortest-lived. Their adult lifespan ranges between 5 minutes to 2 hours and with the purpose only of reproducing.

In general, mayflies are the animals with the shortest lifespan worldwide. They spend most of their life as nymphs and live only 24 hours in their adult fly form. Even the scientific name of their order, Ephemeroptera, means “short-lived” in greek.