For scientists keeping tabs on the oldest living things in nature, figuring out the accurate age of an animal or plant has always been a challenge. But that hasn’t stopped them from trying.
Most recently, BBC News reported on how Tony Kirkham, head of the arboretum of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, maintained that trees were capable of outliving animals.
That sparked a debate among experts, from which has been compiled this list of the five oldest living things on Earth.
1. Bristlecone Pine – The Great Basin bristlecone pine trees (pinus longaeva) from California and Nevada are the oldest trees in the world, considering only individual, non-clonal trees, according to Monumental Trees. A team of U.S. researchers have established a list of officially dated ancient trees, entitled the Old List, and it estimates the Bristlecone Pine to be over 5,000 years-old.
2. Deep sea black coral – Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Labratory, Stanford University and the University of California at Santa Cruz have determined that two groups of Hawaiian deep-sea corals are far older than previously recorded. According to Lawrence Livermore, the longest lived in both species was 2,740 years and 4,270 years, respectively.
3. Jonathan the tortoise – At 185 years, Jonathan is Earth’s oldest living aldabra giant tortoise (aldabrachelys gigantea). According to IFL Science, this makes him possibly the oldest living land animal, and a strong contender for oldest vertebrate.
4. Jellyfish – The Turritopsis Dohrnii specie of jellyfish earns a spot in this list due to its reputation for being “immortal.” Once the adult form of the 4.5 mm-wide species have reproduced, they don’t die but transform themselves back into their juvenile polyp state, claims immortal-jellyfish.com. The website further reports that, among laboratory samples, all the adult Turritopsis observed regularly undergo this change. The specie can only die if it is killed.
5. The horseshoe crab – The horseshoe crab (limulidae) pre-dates flying insects, man and dinosaur – making it one of the oldest living phenomena on Earth. They are called "living fossils." A website, The Horse Shoe Crab, dedicated to the conservation of the specie, states: “The evolution of the horseshoe crab extends back far before the dawn of human civilization, before the dinosaurs, before flowering plants... back to the era in our planet's history when visible life first appeared.” The specie has evolved over 54 million years and continues to fascinate scientists.
Once you get down to between 100 and 250 years, there are lots of contenders:
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