TED Talk: Rachel Sussman Photographs The World's Oldest Living Things (Video)
A map of the planet's oldest living things, via Rachel Sussman
What are the oldest living things on the planet? If you're thinking 200-year-old tortoises, well, those are just whippersnappers compared to the organisms that give Methuselah a run for his money. Rachel Sussman has traveled the planet photographing living creatures that have celebrated at least their 2,000th birthday. She's found 500,000-year-old actinobacteria in the Siberian permafrost, and a 5,000-year-old bristle cone pine in California. Her photographs are meant to do two things: 1) show us these miracles of life on our planet and 2) show us the things that have withstood elements and time, but likely won't be able to outlive the damage humans are doing to the planet.
The idea that these things could be older than human civilization, yet not last through what human civilization is causing is painful to consider. Though, who knows what they might be able to withstand if they've made it this far. Sussman is doing an incredible job bringing those that have made it this far -- right now she's off to visit three more living things past the 2,000 year mark: "an ancient Olive tree in Crete, the surprisingly deciduous addition of the Castagno dei Cento Cavalli (that's "Chestnut of 100 Horses") in Sicily, and the object of the above riddle: 100,000-year-old Posidonia Oceanica sea grass living off the coast of Ibiza of all places."
Check out more photographs of the planet's oldest living organisms on Sussman's website.
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