Animals seldom reach their maximum possible age due to various internal and external factors. Many die during infancy and others due to predators, environmental factors, habitat loss, starvation, diseases, competition, and many more.

Below is a list of 10 unique animals on Earth who have triumphed against all such risks to their existence and continue to live extraordinarily long lives.

Table of Contents

1. Jonathan the Giant Tortoise

Jonathan - oldest animals
The oldest tortoise Jonathan in 1886 and 2017 (source)

Jonathan was born five years ahead of the coronation of Queen Victoria, and he lives to be 189 years old today. Isn’t it shocking to know that this extraordinary tortoise has lived through two world wars?

He is the oldest living terrestrial animal on Earth. This particular tortoise species was believed to be extinct; however, we have about 80 Aldabra tortoises worldwide today.

Although his species typically have a lifespan of 150 years, Jonathan has surpassed this and is in excellent health.

He lives in the governor’s state in St Helena Island and is very friendly towards humans. His diet mainly constitutes apples, carrots, guavas, cucumbers, bananas, and other fresh fruits and vegetables. Probably the secret to a long life! 

Jonathan is now unable to see due to the development of a cataract in both of his eyes. It appears as if Jonathan has lost his olfactory senses. Nevertheless, his appetite and hearing abilities are excellent. The vets report that Jonathan has a good libido as well!

Fun fact: 

The temperature around the eggs determines the gender of the tortoise. If the mother wants more females, they keep the eggs warm. If kept cool, they will hatch into male tortoises! Isn’t this the best information for tortoise breeders? 

2. 150 years old Bowhead Whales

Bowhead - oldest animals
An old bowhead whale with 120 years old harpoon in his head (source)

Bowhead whales are ocean giants that have a very long lifespan. They reside in the Arctic oceans and weigh about a hundred tons. They are the ocean giants with 60 feet long bodies.

The most crucial reason for bowhead whales to have a long life is their structure and design. They have a thick skull enough to break seven inches of sea ice. And their enormous mouth is enough to scare away any sea creatures. Technically, they have no predators in the deep arctic sea.

According to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, bowhead whales have the enormous mouth among all animals!

Experts believe that bowhead whales can live as long as 268 years. The freezing water and mineral-rich food help them maintain a healthy metabolism and minimize tissue damage. This combination is one of the significant factors contributing to their longevity. 

According to the study of remains, we have had a 211 years old bowhead whale in the past. Experts dated these creatures back to the 1800s. And today, scientists believe that a 150-year-old bowhead whale is circling the arctic waters.

Fun fact: 

Bowhead whales produce as many as 60 unique and highly complex songs to communicate underwater. They are very loud during freezing and dark winters. Not to forget that the shape of their mouth makes them look as if they are smiling! 

3. Ozzie, the 60 years old gorilla

Ozzie - oldest animals
Ozzie is celebrating his 60th birthday (source)

Ozzie celebrated his 60th birthday on 20 June 2021 with a multi-tires ice cake. Today he is popularly known as the oldest living gorilla. He is 350 lb in weight and is currently under the protection of Zoo Atlanta.

He has more than 20 descendants, and a few of them live with him in the same zoo. Although gorillas are considered geriatric after the age of 40, some of them continue to surprise us with extraordinary lifespans.

Hunting, disease, and habitat loss have remarkably decreased the population of western lowland gorillas today. They are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Fun fact:

Once the male gorillas are of mating age, they are cast out of the family. This expulsion is because their leader (silverback) has exclusive rights to all female gorillas in the troop.

4. The 17th century Greenland Sharks

Encountering old Green land shark. Copyright: Wonder World

Greenland sharks are amongst the longest-living vertebrates on Earth. Scientists found that one such female Greenland shark was as old as 400 years through carbon dating!

These sharks only attain sexual maturity after 150 years. Their growth rate is one centimeter every year. What a long teen life!

They are slow swimmers found in the deep North Atlantic Ocean. It is believed that the sluggish movement and slow development rate of Greenland sharks are responsible for their long lifespan.

It is reported that there are plenty of such long-living Greenland sharks in the Atlantic Sea; however, determining their exact age has been highly challenging. 

The exact age of fish and sharks is determined by counting concentric rings in the ear bones. However, Greenland sharks have no such growth layers to decide their actual age before death.

Fun fact:

Greenland sharks are poisonous, and yet humans consume them. The meat is buried deep underground for about 12 weeks freezing and thawing it several times. Then, it is hung dry for several months before consumption. 

5. Koi Fish

Late Hanako (source)

Who would have imagined that Koi fish could live as long as 40 years or much more under the right circumstances! Hanako, one such long-lived Koi, died at the age of 226 in the year 1997. The growth rings on her scales shocked humanity.

They are popularly known as “the king of river fish.” They were first bred in Japan in 1820 for their unique combination of color. Today, there is one such male Koi fish in the Portland Japanese garden born in 1996. He is roughly 25 years old now.

Another giant Koi fish, “Big Girl,” is 26 years old today. She is the world’s biggest Koi fish weighing about 90 lbs (40.8 kg) and 4 feet (1.2 meters) in length.

Unlike other domesticated fish, they can withstand freezing temperatures as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit. During cold weather, they hibernate at the bottom of the water without eating much. They survive most of the winters on stored fat. 

Fun fact:

The Koi fish is a symbol of devotion, companionship, and love. In Japan, they are usually gifted to loved ones with hopes of strengthening and keeping an ever-lasting relationship. 

6. Wisdom the Laysan Albatross

Wisdom Albatross - oldest animals
Wisdom the Laysan Albatross (source)

The oldest living Laysan Albatross has been flying since 1951. Researchers tracked her in 1956 when she was only five years old. This particular Laysan Albatross has flown over three million miles and continues to do so to today’s date. 

And although she travels far and wide, Wisdom makes sure to return to her nest every year on Midway Atoll. Her longevity and concern for her chicks have surprised the researchers. 

Wisdom has laid over 40 eggs in her lifetime so far. And, it has been reported that she recently hatched yet another egg at the age of seventy! As reported by the wildlife agency, Wisdom and her mate Akeakamai have been hatching and raising baby birds for a very long time.

It has been further elaborated that Wisdom has gained a lot of experience avoiding predators and disastrous natural forces over the years. Birds of this species typically have a long lifespan and can live as long as 40 years or more.

Fun fact:

Laysan Albatross can spend over one year in the ocean without setting foot on land. They can also sleep while flying. Furthermore, 31% of all mated Laysan Albatross pairs consist of two females!

7. African Elephant

Tribute to Tyranza. Copyright: Karen Pulfer Focht -Photojournalist

African elephants are the largest terrestrial animals, with over 70 years. However, when kept in zoos, their life significantly decreases by several years. They are up to 13 feet tall and weigh about 5 to 7 tons.

Female African elephants reach breeding age at the age of 12 years. And unlike humans, they remain fertile for all their lives. The pregnancy, however, is a highly complex phase for elephants lasting as long as 22 months.

The oldest living African elephant, namely Tyranza, died at 56 years. Tyranza set the record for the longest-lived African elephant in North America. Today there are a few African Elephants above the age of 50 in different parts of the world. However, they are in continuous threat of extension.

Fun fact:

African elephants are capable of demonstrating grief. They are seen re-visiting the bones of the deceased family members for years. Additionally, elephants can recognize themselves in the mirror. Not many animals are capable of doing so. 

8. Ocean Quahog

Ming - oldest animals
Ming the ocean Quahog (source)

Some of these edible clams in oceans live up to 400 years old. And others live for at least a hundred years. 

In 2006, one such ocean quahog called “Ming” was 507 years old when researchers caught it from the coastal region in Iceland. They are found in various oceanic climates ranging from North America to Iceland.

Just as counting the number of rings on tree trunks, the shell rings on ocean quahog give way to their age. These shells don’t just tell the organism’s age but rather help experts understand how the oceans and aquatic life have changed over the years. 

One of the main reasons for their extended lifespan is their habitat. They bury themselves in ocean beds and protect themselves from predators. Experts suggest that there may be many such long-lived ocean quahogs in the ocean with jaw-dropping lifespans.

After all, humans today could be eating ocean quahogs that were around in the time of Hitler!

Fun fact:

They do not mate. As ocean quahogs are not very mobile, the reproduction is entirely external. Unless they are disturbed by external factors, they move less than a few feet all their life.

9. 111 years old Tuataras

Tuatara - oldest animals
111 years old father tuatara (source)

Tuataras can live up to a hundred years in the wild. The two and a half feet creatures may appear tiny; however, they have been on Earth for a very long period. They are closely related to dinosaurs and are assumed to have been around 200 million years ago.

Henry, a male tuatara of 111 years old, is still alive today. He became a father for the first time at the age of 110. Henry is reproductively active even at such old age. At present, he lives in Southland Museum Art Gallery in New Zealand. 

These extraordinary relatives of dinosaurs grow very slowly and don’t stop growing until 30. Today, tuataras are highly endangered, and most of them live in New Zealand. 

Fun fact:

Tuataras possess a third eye on top of their forehead. However, they are not used for vision. Ongoing research suggests that the third eye helps in absorbing UV rays and setting the circadian cycles. 

10. Immortal Jellyfish

Jellyfish - oldest animals
Immortal Turritopsis Dohrni (source)

We won’t forget to include the immortal jellyfish on our list of the ten oldest living species on Earth! Did you know that jellyfish can start as a new baby at times of stress or injury?

When under stress, they go back into the polyp stage and start the maturation process again. These jellyfish can go through this process repeatedly till the end of time unless some aquatic animals consume them.

However, this is not true for all kinds of jellyfish. Turritopsis dohrnii is a kind of jellyfish that is immortal and has been living for ages. They must have discovered the fountain of youth in the deep blue oceans!

Fun fact:

They are also commonly known as “hitchhikers” as they are seen to attach themselves to cargo ships. They do not have any brain or a heart, probably their secret to baffling longevity!

To wrap up

The tortoises born during Charles Darwin’s times are happy and healthy today. And, if you compare the human lifespan to a few of these extraordinary creatures, we might want to rethink our time on Earth.

These animals have survived so far, protecting themselves from all kinds of threats. However, today human activities have posed an immense threat to their existence.

As a result, our job is to guarantee that these creatures thrive in their natural habitats, free of human influence.

(Last Updated on October 25, 2021 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Shradha Bhatta holds a Bachelors’s Degree in Social Work along with a Post-graduate degree in Project Management from Georgian College in Canada. Shradha enjoys writing on a variety of topics and takes pleasure in discovering new ideas. She likes traveling and spending time with nature. She is a very people-person who loves talking about climate change and alerting people to go green!