30 Animals with Unbelievable Lifespans
The average human lifespan is around 79 years, though some members of our species have celebrated their 100th—and even 122nd—birthdays. But while these triple-digit lifespans are anomalies for us, some animals are so over-the-hill that hitting ten decades is the norm.
From deep-sea divers to critters that wing through the sky, these 30 animals won’t be searching for the Fountain of Youth anytime soon. Read on to discover just how long these unbelievable lifespans stretch.
African Elephant | 70 Years
First on our list is the unforgettable African elephant—one of the few mammals featured here. While this pachyderm’s average lifespan is pretty similar to that of humans, it may be slightly more impressive because African elephants are the largest land animals on the planet.
Macaw | 80 Years
This well-known member of the parrot family hails from the rainforests of Central and South America. Due to their playful nature—and their ability to mimic human speech—macaws are popular pets. This means they’re often hunted, but, if left to their own devices, macaws can live up to 80 years.
Pink Cockatoo | 83 Years
Surprisingly, these colorful birds aren’t native to rainforests, unlike our friends the macaws. Instead, the pink cockatoo—or Major Mitchell’s cockatoo—calls the arid outback of Australia its home. But the most famous pink cockatoo left Sydney’s Taronga Zoo behind for the exciting clime of Illinois.
Kakapo | 95 Years
The kakapo is another example of A) an animal with a pretty hefty lifespan, and B) another parrot. All of this really makes us think Polly’s cracker obsession was the key to longevity. (Forget apples.) But what really makes this New Zealand-based bird unique? It can’t fly.
Crocodile | 100 Years
Modern crocodiles have been alive and kicking for a solid 80 million years, which explains their vaguely prehistoric look. While most crocs, such as those native to the Nile River, live just 45 years, a few can outlast even the longest-living humans. At 110-years-old, Australia’s Cassius is one of the oldest crocs on record.
Olm Salamander | 102 Years
The olm is a blind salamander that lives to be over a century old. This aquatic cave-dweller’s eyes actually stop developing as it grows, until those eyes are covered in a layer of skin. Instead of depending on sight to hunt snails and other prey, this dragon lookalike uses heightened senses of smell and hearing to navigate the world.
New Zealand Long-finned Eel | 106 Years
Native to New Zealand, this eel exhibits several unique behaviors, many of which tie into its unusually long lifespan. These eels generally live out their lives in freshwater locales, including streams and lakes in inland Australia and New Zealand. But they enjoy a dip in saltwater, too.
Blue Whale | 110 Years
Larger than any land animal known to man, it is commonly thought that blue whales are the largest creatures to ever exist on Earth. One of these massive mammals weighs between 200,000 and 300,000 pounds. To put that in perspective for you, a blue whale’s heart weighs as much as your Lyft driver’s Prius.
Beluga Sturgeon | 118 Years
As the crotchety-sounding name might imply, sturgeons are a pretty old group of fish. It’s estimated that they’ve been around for 200 million years. So they’ve had quite some time to perfect this whole life thing. One of the largest predatory fish in the world, the beluga sturgeon has very few natural predators of its own, which may contribute to its average lifespan of 118 years.
European Pond Turtle | 120 Years
Most European pond turtles live around 60 years, but certain individuals have reached ages that are double that figure. Though these turtles seem like hearty, built-to-last animals, they actually encounter quite a few obstacles. In particular, hatchlings have it the worst: they’re vulnerable without fully-formed shells and they need very favorable weather conditions in order to survive.
Mediterranean Spur-thighed Tortoise | 125 Years
The Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise, or Greek tortoise, has a very high average lifespan. Most specimens live at least 125 years, if not longer. One unverified report claims one of these robust creatures lived a whopping 200 years. One thing remains certain: these tortoises won’t need to trek up Mt. Olympus to sip on ambrosia and extend their lives anytime soon.
Eastern Box Turtle | 138 Years
Box turtles of all sorts live in North America—in states ranging from Maine to Florida and Texas—as well as on the Yucatan peninsula. Even though this creature isn’t a tortoise, it is largely a terrestrial turtle, preferring to live close to—rather than in—the water. Though many box turtles only live a few decades due to a plethora of natural predators and their propensity for getting struck down by cars and farming equipment, those in captivity have reached ages well over 100.
Pacific Geoduck | 140 Years
Known as the mud duck or king clam, the geoduck (pronounced "gooey-duck") is certainly a strange-looking mollusk. To make matters worse, these suckers burrow into the mud and sand. And those siphons, or necks (or whatever they are) can grow to three feet in length.
American Lobster | 140 Years
From fertilizer to cheap prison food to New England’s finest delicacy, these crustaceans have experienced a lot of change over the years. Even as adults, lobsters shed their shells, continually growing. The longer they live, the stronger their shells become. While most lobsters live to be a couple pounds and up to 50 years old, a few have proven that lobsters can be more resilient—when they aren’t being netted.
Warty Oreo | 140 Years
Apple pie, birthday cake, red velvet, fudge-covered, peanut butter, and...warty. No, the warty oreo is not Nabisco’s latest trial flavor for milk’s favorite cookie. (Thank the Keeblers.) It’s just a very ugly, unfortunately-named, old fish. Though most oreos live for 140 years or so, some have reportedly lasted 200 years out on the continental slopes.
Orange Roughy | 149 Years
Yet another big-eyed fish with a mildly repulsive name, the orange roughy (or slimehead…) is another animal that’s figured out the secret to longevity. Native to waters in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indo-Pacific, the roughy tries its best to tough out deep-trawl fisheries. However, this slow-growing and late to mature fish is very susceptible to overfishing.
Tuatara | 150 Years
If you search "tuatara," one of the most popular related searches is "Does the tuatara have a third eye?" Kind of a wild thing to stumble upon. But it’s true. This dinosaur-looking lizard has a third eye on the top of its head. Called the parietal eye, it has all the makings you’d expect, from reina to cornea, but it isn’t used for vision. In fact, scales grow over the parietal eye as the hatchling ages.
Lake Sturgeon | 152 Years
In 1953, a lake sturgeon was caught by scientists in Canada, who later thought the individual to be a spectacular 152 years old. Despite their names, lake sturgeon are found in the Hudson Bay, the Mississippi River, and other bodies of water, in addition to the Great Lakes. Known as North America’s largest fish (most measure 7 feet long), these freshwater creatures are facing a drastic population drop.
Galápagos Tortoise | 170 Years
Weighing in at a maximum of 919 pounds, the Galápagos tortoise is known for its giant stature. Today, the tortoises live on two remote archipelagos: the Galápagos, near Ecuador, and Aldabra Island atoll, part of the Seychelles. (More on the Aldabra tortoises in a minute.) The Galápagos tortoises are especially well known for their starring role in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. With lifespans in the wild of over 100 years, these long-living vertebrates still have much to teach researchers.
Aldabra Tortoise | 180 Years
And we’re back—this time with the Aldabra tortoises, who call one of the Seychelles northeast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean their home. The tortoise is by far the largest animal on the Aldabra Island atoll, making its ecological niche similar to that of an elephant. Yes, really. And these two animals have more than just their gray, wrinkled skin in common.
Red Sea Urchin | 200 Years
Sea urchins are spiny, sphere-like animals—yes, animals—that live in all of Earth’s oceans. Over 900 species of urchins populate the seabed, feeding on algae and regrowing their broken spines. A truly exciting existence! Especially for the red sea urchin, which gets to capitalize on this lowkey existence for a reported 200 years.
Rougheye Rockfish | 200 Years
Like all with it coastal residents, rougheye rockfish dine on shrimp and the occasional crab. Unlike other seaside locals, however, they’re named after the spines that ring their eyes. Despite this apt name, rougheye rockfish are more commonly known as "snapper," a much more marketable—and potentially palatable—name.
Bowhead Whale | 211 Years
The bowhead whale spends all of its life in the Arctic and sub-Arctic waters. Because of that, it has some pretty unique features, including a triangular skull capable of busting through ice. Inuit hunters have attested that bowheads have broken through ice 24-inches thick. That’s a lot—triangular skull or not.
Koi Fish | 226 Years
Originally brought to Japan as a food source, the majestic koi fish are actually relatives of the common carp. Koi are closely associated with Japan’s national identity and a symbol of good fortune, patience, and prosperity. All over the world, these fish are prized for their beauty. Through some accidents—and some purposeful decisions—they live in the wild on every continent except Antarctica.
Lamellibrachia Luymesi Tube Worms | 250 Years
Lamellibrachia luymesi isn’t exactly latin for "large sedentary worm," but we wouldn’t question that translation if you said it with confidence. After all, that’s what these off-white tube worms with showgirl plumes are—unmoving worms. Honestly, it’s easy to forget they’re animals, not plants.
“Ming the Clam,” Ocean Quahog | 507 Years
For quite awhile, many believed Ming the clam was the world’s oldest living animal. And then calamity struck. Well, sort of. In order to find out this mollusk’s precise age, researchers at Bangor University had to pry it open. Yup, in order to determine if Ming was the oldest living animal, researchers had to kill the clam.
Greenland Shark | 514 Years
As their name suggests, Greenland sharks generally live in the northern Atlantic Ocean and Arctic Ocean. These are some of the largest sharks around, measuring anywhere between 15 feet to 24 feet in length, and weighing anywhere between 880 and 3,100 pounds. Greenland sharks are also known for having the longest lifespans of all vertebrates—that is, animals with a backbone.
Sea Sponge, Monorhaphis Chuni | 11,000 Years
The Monorhaphis chuni has a lot of other latin phrases attached to it, but, in more digestible terms, it’s part of a family of deep-sea sponges called "glass sponges." Made of silica spicules (think long, thin icicle-like strands), these glass sponges look more like Dale Chihuly sculptures than animals. The particular type of glass sponge in question, m. chuni, forms giant spicules up to 10 feet in length.
Hydra | Immortal; Doesn’t Age
Like the many-headed serpent Hercules fought in Greek mythology, this little creature is also many-armed. Or tentacled. Like jellyfish and reef-dwelling creatures, the hydra is an animal—even though it looks plant-like at first glance. But biologists are so interested in them due to their regenerative abilities.
“Immortal Jellyfish,” Turritopsis Dohrnii | Immortal; Rebirths Itself
I’m sure you’re wondering what animal could possibly upstage an immortal, regenerative hydra? Well, a second seemingly immortal animal exists on this planet and is even nicknamed the "immortal jellyfish." Why does this creature, the Turritopsis dohrnii, claim the top spot? Let’s just say it takes this whole game of life to a new level.