The Longest Living Animals in the Entire World

There are tortoises alive today that were around during Charles Darwin’s time. In fact, there are a number of creatures with life spans that make the oldest living human seem like a spring chicken by comparison. Here are animals with the longest life spans — including one immortal animal.

Greenland Shark

Greenland shark near the ocean's floor
dottedhippo / Getty Images 

According to a study utilizing eye lens radiocarbon testing, the minimum life span of a Greenland shark is 272 years, with a maximum reported age of 392 years. The authors of the study concluded that the Greenland shark is the longest-living vertebrae known to man. The shark is considered “near-threatened” due to possible population declines. The Greenland shark lives in the Arctic and North Atlantic waters at depths averaging from 4,000 to over 7,000 feet. This shark grows slowly to a length of 8 to 14 feet at maturity. It scavenges for its food and eats a variety of fish and birds. 2 of 11

Geoduck Clam

geoduck clams
Jonathan Austin Daniels / Getty Images 

These oversized saltwater clams have been known to live for more than 165 years. Geoducks experience rapid growth during their first years of life, growing an average of over 1 inch per year in the first four years. Characterized by their long “necks,” or siphons, the body of a geoduck can grow to more than 3 feet in length, while the shell is typically no longer than 8 inches. Geoducks are native to the Pacific Northwest from California to Alaska. 3 of 11


Kevin Schafer / Getty Images

Tuatara are the only surviving members of an order that flourished about 200 million years ago, the Sphenodontia. Essentially, they are living fossils. Tuatara are also among the longest-lived vertebrates on Earth, with some individuals living over 100 years. Found only in New Zealand, tuataras reach sexual maturity after 10 to 20 years and continue growing until they are 35 to 40 years old. 4 of 11

Lamellibrachia Tube Worm

Lamellibrachia Tube worms
NOAA Photo Library / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

These colorful deep sea creatures are tube worms (Lamellibrachia luymesi) that have been known to live between 170 and 250 years. These vestimentiferan tube worms live along hydrocarbon cold seep vents on the ocean floor. The Lamellibrachia is unique among vent creatures because it grows slowly throughout the duration of its life to a length of over 6 feet. This creature is found in the Atlantic Ocean, especially in shallow portions of the Gulf of Mexico basin. 5 of 11

Red Sea Urchin

red sea urchin
Jeff Rotman / Getty Images

The red sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus franciscanus) has a life expectancy from 100 to over 200 years. Found only in the Pacific Ocean, primarily along the West Coast of North America and the northern coast of Japan, the red sea urchin lives in shallow, sometimes rocky waters. The red sea urchin avoids extremely wavy areas and stays primarily from the low-tide line down to 300 feet. They crawl along the ocean floor using their spines as stilts. 6 of 11

Bowhead Whale

bowhead whale from above as it comes up for air
by wildestanimal / Getty Images

Also known as the Arctic whale, the bowhead is by far the longest living mammal on Earth. The average age of captured whales is 60 to 70 years; however, examinations of whales discovered with ancient ivory spears still lodged in their flesh has resulted in estimated life spans of at least 100 years. These creatures are found in the colder waters of the north Atlantic and north Pacific. 7 of 11

Koi Fish

koi fish in a pond framed by maple leaves
Russell Morales / Getty Images

Koi are an ornamental, domesticated variety of the common carp. They have an average lifespan of 40 years, while the oldest known koi lived to be over 200 years. Koi can grow up to 3 feet in length and are native to the fresh waters of the Caspian Sea. Wild populations can be found in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. Koi are common in artificial rock pools and decorative ponds. 8 of 11


Galapagos giant tortoise
Nick Dale / EyeEm / Getty Images

With an average lifespan of 177 years, tortoises are considered one of the  longest living vertebrates on Earth. One of their oldest known representatives was Harriet, a Galápagos tortoise that died of heart failure in 2006 at the age of 175 at a zoo owned by the late Steve Irwin. Harriet was considered the last living representative of Darwin’s epic voyage on the HMS Beagle. A Seychelles tortoise named Jonathan, at 187, recently made it into the Guinness World Records as the oldest known living land animal. 9 of 11

Ocean Quahog

ocean quahog clam on a deck
capecodphoto / Getty Images

The ocean quahog (Arctica islandica) is a bivalve mollusk that can live for 200 years. A lifespan of 100 years is common, with age measured by age marks formed in the quahog’s valves. With a habitat that stretches from the east coast of North America to Iceland, the Shetland Islands, and Cadiz, Spain, the ocean quahog has a broad range. Filter feeders, ocean quahogs bury themselves in the ocean floor to feed on microscopic algae. 10 of 11

Antarctic Sponge

Antarctic sponge
Adrian James Testa / Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History / CC0

Antarctic sponges can thank their environment for their long lifespans. These sponges, of which there are over 300, live approximately 325 to 6,500 feet underwater in extremely cold temperatures. This extreme environment slows down their growth rate and other biological processes, which results in remarkable longevity. A 2002 study calculated that one Antarctic sponge species, the Anoxycalyx joubini, could potentially live a phenomenal 15,000 years. The same study determined that the Cinachyra antarctica, which does not live as deep underwater as the Anoxycalyx joubini, can live up to 1,550 years. 11 of 11

Immortal Jellyfish

Immortal jellyfish
Duangkamon Panyapatiphan / Getty Images

The Turritopsis dohrnii species of jellyfish might be the only animal in the world to have truly discovered the fountain of youth. Since it is capable of cycling from a mature adult stage to an immature polyp stage and back again, there may be no natural limit to its life span. Found primarily in the Mediterranean, the Turritopsis dohrnii species is also an expert survivalist, hitching rides on the bottom of cargo ships around the world.

By Bryan Nelson

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