The 10 Oldest Living Things On Earth

This list of the oldest living things on Earth, including the oldest animals, species, and organisms, will definitely make you feel young. You could probably nitpick some of these life forms within a million years here, a million years there... but the fact remains that these animals have been around a loooong time. What are the oldest living organisms on earth? And more importantly how have they stuck around this long?

These ancient organisms have been around for millions, or ever billions of years and have achieved apparent perfection in their environment. Millennia have passed, and they keep on keeping on. Sure, a tail might shorten, an extra tentacle might grow, or they might develop a more streamlined coat of armor... but, like that guy you know with the haircut he's had since high school, these animals have asked themselves the question: Why change it if it's working?

These are the oldest living things on the planet, and they just might still be here long after we are nothing more than fossils found buried in a pile of styrofoam take-out boxes.

  • Cyanobacteria
    Photo: Willem van Aken, CSIRO / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

    Age: 3.5 billion years old

    The oldest known cyanobacteria fossils were found on Archaean rocks of western Australia. Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, is a type of bacteria that uses photosynthesis to create energy. It is believed that this played a role in oxidizing the earth's atmosphere, making the planet more suitable for life as we know it.
  • Sponge

    Age: 580 million years old

    Sponges are from an ancient animal group whose lineage can be traced back to the beginnings of animal life. Fossils of glass sponges have been found in rocks in Australia, China, and Mongolia. Although about 90% of modern sponges are demosponges, fossilized remains of this type are less common than other types because their skeletons are composed of relatively soft spongin that does not fossilize well.
  • Jellyfish

    Age: 505 million years old

    Jellyfish belong to the group of animals called Cnidaria or Coelenterata. This group includes corals, hydras, jellyfish, Portuguese men-of-war, sea anemones, sea pens, sea whips, and sea fans. They are hard to fossilize, as they're made of mostly water, but fossils suggest they are even older than previously thought.
  • Age450 million years old

    Horseshoe crabs are considered "living fossils." The earliest horseshoe crab fossils are dated to the Ordovician period. These marine arthropods live primarily near shallow ocean waters with soft, sandy or muddy bottoms. Their populations have been in decline due to habitat destruction and over harvesting.
  • Age: 400 million years old

    A rare order of fish, coelacanths are more closely related to lungfish, reptiles and even mammals than to common ray-finned fish. Live species have been discovered as recently as 1998.
  • Gingko Biloba
    Photo: H. Zell / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Gingko Biloba

    Age: 270 million years old

    The Ginkgo tree is the only living representative of the order Ginkgoales, a group of gymnosperms dating back to 270 million years ago in the Permian period. Due to geological cataclysms, only three or four species were left in the Tertiary period (65 million years ago). The extinction of the dinosaurs as potential seed dispersers of the tree's large seeds may also have influenced this decline, which is in line with the fossil records.