Weird Nature
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11 Ancient Animals That Are Older Than Every Single Human On Earth

Updated June 2, 2020 184.9k views11 items

Nature is full of crazy creatures that defy all logic, and none are more mind-boggling than the animals that can live to be older than humans. Some of the oldest animals on earth have been alive since the time of Charles Darwin, and there are some survivors who may have been around during the time of the last mammoths. Many of these old animals are deep on the ocean floor, but there are some incredibly resilient animals who can survive hundreds of years on dry land. 

The longest living animals can teach us a lot about the aging process, so it’s important to study these rare creatures. Sometimes estimates are exaggerated, but age testing on these animals is very complex and pretty accurate. There are many ways to test the age of animals, including carbon dating. These ancient animals are believed to be some of the oldest things on earth and, as technologies improve, we will gain a better understanding of them.

  • Photo: Ecomare/Oscar Bos / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    Age: 405 Years

    In 2007, researchers analyzing a deceased clam discovered they might have accidentally killed one of the oldest creatures in the world. Ming the clam, as it was eventually named, was one of 200 clams collected from a glacial shelf in Iceland. It died after being frozen and transported to a research laboratory. 

    Scientists realized their mistake after taking a look the clam's shell under a microscope. At first it was announced the ocean quahog died at the ripe old age of 507, but further researched revealed the clam was actually 405. A combination of carbon dating and counting the rings on its shell were used to determine the clam's actual age.

    • The Immortal Jellyfish Could Theoretically Live Forever

      Photo: Bachware / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

      Age: ∞ Years

      This tiny jellyfish is no bigger than your pinky nail, but hidden within that tiny body is the key to immortality. When facing a threat, an adult immortal jellyfish can revert back to its larval stage and start life again. This process, called transdifferentiation, can be triggered by starvation, injuries, and other existential threats. This process can theoretically allow these jellies to live forever, although proving the age of any individual would be difficult.

      Though, some jellyfish are unable to revert back and can die, which obviously ends their immortal lifespan.

      • Scientific Name: Scyphozoa
    • Giant Antarctic Sponges Can Live For Thousands Of Years

      Photo: NOAA/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

      Age: 15,000 Years

      The estimates for this animal's age are astounding but, if true, it would likely be the oldest living organism on the planet. Some scientists believe giant Arctic sponges can live for thousands of years. These sponges, which are in the group Hexactinellida, may owe their longevity to their slow growth rate and the frigid waters of the deep ocean. Some estimates put the age of individuals as high as 23,000-years-old, but most agree the number is likely inaccurate.

      Some researchers challenge all of the higher estimates given for this animals age, as scientists have been unable to definitively age these creatures.

      • Scientific Name: Cinachyra antarctica
    • Photo: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

      Age: 392 Years

      These impressively long-living sharks are native to the freezing waters of the Arctic, and one female specimen is estimated to be nearly 400. Biologists used carbon dating on proteins found in the lenses of the shark's eyes to age the animal. Their discovery completely changed the way scientists view this animal. Greenland sharks grow at a slow rate, about a centimeter a year.

      It is hypothesized their slow growth may play a role in their incredible longevity. 

      • Scientific Name: Somniosus microcephalus