7 Fun Facts About the World’s Oldest Animals to Amaze You

From prehistoric nematodes to centuries-old sharks, the world’s long-living animals have lots of candles on their cakes!



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Can you guess the age of the oldest animal on earth? Scientists continue to uncover impressive species that can live for centuries, and even longer. From Arctic sharks to island tortoises, find out the latest discoveries of the world’s longest-living animals. These fun facts are sure to amaze you:

Scientists discovered a Greenland shark that could be over 500 years old

You can find one of the world’s largest fish, the Greenland shark, swimming in the icy waters of the Arctic. The shark not only grows up to 16 feet (4.9 meters) but has an impressive lifespan, too. The shark doesn’t begin to reproduce until after their 150th birthday, which makes them especially important to protect from fisheries. 

A study published in Science Magazine showed how scientists can figure out the age of a Greenland shark by looking at their unique eye structure. As they age, the shark grows more layers on the lens of their eyes. You can imagine their surprise after finding a 16.5-foot (5-meter) shark, estimated between 272 and 512 years old! 

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A biologist found a bowhead whale embedded with a harpoon from the 1880s

The bowhead whale, one of the biggest mammals on earth, grows up to 60 feet (18 meters) in length. This beautiful mammal also boasts one of the longest lifespans.

In 2007, a biologist made an astonishing discovery, as reported in The New York Times. The Inuit had recently hunted a bowhead whale off the coast of Alaska. Recovered from its blubber were pieces of a harpoon, used more than 100 years ago by whalers in New Bedford, Massachusetts. That made the whale at least 115 years old! 

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Koi fish can live over 200 years and sell for millions of dollars

The Japanese began breeding koi in the 1700s for their distinct colors, similar to the way other cultures breed dogs. Most live between 25 to 35 years, although the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute reported the oldest recorded koi reaching 230 years of age.

Koi may look like oversized goldfish, but they are actually a species of carp. The word “koi” derives from the word for carp in Japanese. In Japan, they are worth their weight in gold with people collecting ponds of koi for good fortune. They pay a pretty penny for each, sometimes thousands of dollars or more.

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Harriet, the Galápagos tortoise, was born before Charles Darwin’s famous voyage in 1835

Naturalist Charles Darwin, has gone down in history for his contributions to the science of evolution. Darwin famously developed his theories during his visit to the Galápagos Islands in 1835. 

Around the same time, a tortoise named Harriet was collected from Santa Cruz island in the Galápagos. She was born circa 1830 and lived almost two centuries, making her one of the longest living tortoises ever recorded.

She spent years at the Australia Zoo and was owned by the late Steve Irwin, the famous “Crocodile Hunter, ” as reported on LiveScience. Irwin said she was considered to be a part of the family. Harriet died in 2006 at the ripe old age of about 175 years.

 (FOTOGRIN / Shutterstock.com)

Macaws live just as long as humans and work together in teams

While walking through the rainforest in Central or South America, you may look up and see a brightly colored parrot flying overhead. These macaws come in a variety of species and colors—green, blue, red, yellow—you name it. 

Macaws live as long as humans (up to 80 years), and work together in teams like people, too. Scientists observed blue-headed macaws working together voluntarily to exchange a token for a nut reward.

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A clam nicknamed “Ming” was alive during the last imperial dynasty ruled by the Chinese

Over 12,000 clam species live throughout the world in many different habitats. One received its very own nickname, Ming, for its record-breaking age. Collected off the coast of Iceland in 2006, counts of Ming’s annual rings revealed its age of 507 years old, as reported The Guardian. That makes Ming old enough to have been alive during China’s Ming Dynasty, which lasted from 1368 to 1644.

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Scientists resurrected 40,000-year-old nematodes from permafrost in Russia 

So what’s the oldest living animal on earth? In 2018, scientists in Russia, as written in Smithsonian Magazine, worked with Princeton University to analyze about 300 prehistoric nematode roundworms recovered from permafrost above the Arctic Circle.

After thawing out a sample, some of the nematodes began moving and eating, with some expected to be between 30,000 to 40,000 years old! That makes them the oldest living multicellular animal ever recorded. 

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