10 animals that outlive humans by a long shot

bowhead whale
© Hein Nouwens

We may be the species most full of folly, but these long-lived animals get the last laugh.

While the modern age is doing a bang-up job of nudging human life expectancy higher and higher, there's only so much age a human can take. The average life expectancy for a newborn in the Middle Ages was somewhere around 35 – now the worldwide average is 71.5 years. For people in Japan, the number is pushing 84!

So far, the furthest we've come – as far as fully authenticated ages go – is 122 years and 164 days, a feat of stupendous longevity attained by the chocolate-eating, cigarette-smoking Frenchwoman, Jeanne Louise Calment.

But the funny thing is, we humans tend to think that we're all that, what with our anthropocentric hubris and top-of-the-food-chain folly. But there are quite a few animals out there that have us beat, at least as far as age goes. Extended longevity might be one of the most desirable – and least attainable – items on the human wishlist. But these animals? They've got the long-life thing mastered (well, as long as they hide from us ... but still). Check out these lifespans:

  • Lake sturgeon: 150 years
  • Aldabra tortoise: 152 years
  • Geoduck: 165 years
  • Giant Galapagos turtle: 175 years
  • Red sea urchin: 200 years
  • Rougheye rockfish: 205 years
  • Bowhead whale (illustrated above): Over 200 years
  • Lamellibrachia tubeworm: Up to 250 years
  • Greenland shark: 400 years
  • Ocean quahog: 507 years

And note, this is excluding even longer-living creatures like the 5,000-year-old elkhorn coral ... or we can take it a step even further: This little guy above, the hydra, can potentially live forever. May they all have very accommodating retirement plans.

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