With humans living upwards of 70, 80, and even 90 years, it’s amazing to think our lifespans used to be half that. Imagine being 20 years old and considered middle aged? But, even though we pride ourselves with having long and (hopefully) healthy lives, there are some species that dwarf us.
A look into the mysterious depths of the ocean proves this tenfold. There are so many species that make our 80-year lifespans seem laughable. Maybe the longest-living creature on the planet can teach us a thing or two about increasing our life spans.
20. American lobster (100 years): These crustaceans inhabit cold waters off America’s East Coast. The temperatures actually slow their metabolisms down, which gives them a long lifespan. Death is usually caused by disease after they grow too weak to shed their exoskeletons.
19. Olm salamander (102 years): These tiny blind creatures live underwater and use their other heightened senses to hunt prey like snails, crabs, and insects. While living in caves along the Adriatic Sea, they don’t actually grow older because of neoteny.
18. White sturgeon (104 years): These fish don’t actually have scales, but instead have bony plates, and their skeletons are cartilage. Sturgeon are famously farmed for their eggs (caviar), which are a delicacy throughout the world
17. Blue whale (110 years): These ocean Goliaths have tongues that weigh the same as elephants and hearts as big as cars. Amazingly, these mammals live off a diet of only tiny crustaceans and krill.
16. Sablefish (114 years): Reproducing deep in the Pacific Ocean, this species (sometimes referred to as black cod) is one of the few fished responsibly— removing lots of sablefish from an ecosystem has a rather minimal impact.
15. Beluga sturgeon (118 years): Unfortunately, this animal is facing extinction due to overfishing for its meat and caviar. Most have disappeared from their homes in the waters around Eastern Europe, and four species may already be extinct.
14. European pond turtle (120 years): There was reportedly one turtle that lived this long in a botanical garden in Southern France. However, on average, many of them don’t even reach maturity due to predators.
13. Humans (122 years): Okay, so this strays from the sea creatures on this list, but it’s interesting to see where the oldest reported human stacks up. A French woman named Jeann Calment was born in 1875 and died in 1997!
12. Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise (127 years): This incredible lifespan was reached by some of these tortoises in captivity. As their name implies, they live on land near the Mediterranean Sea, and they’re also known as “common” tortoises.
11. Eastern box turtle (138 years): The incredible ability for the shell of this turtle to regenerate is likely the reason they can live so long. That, and the fact the turtles’ reproductive abilities don’t decrease with age.
10. Warty oreo (140 years): These googly-eyed deep-sea dwellers comb the bottom of the ocean floors looking for crustaceans, fish, or squid. Their name comes from the Greek word “Oreosomatidae,” meaning “mountain body.”
9. Orange roughy (149 years): These fish don’t reach their sexual maturity until around 20 or 30, and they grow slowly from that point on. This makes them especially vulnerable to overfishing because they can’t quickly reproduce after a mass quantity is caught.
8. Lake sturgeon (152 years): The fish in this photo is obviously a baby, but at full size, they can grow to six feet. Once a staple of Native American diets, people heavily fished them for their caviar.
7. Shortraker rockfish (157 years): Amazingly, 157 years isn’t the oldest fish of this species ever found — there have been some as old as 175 years! Their googly eyes and orange color make them look like oversized goldfish.
6. Galápagos tortoise (177 years): The name “Galapagos Islands” comes from these shelled animals — “Galapagos” actually means “tortoise” in Spanish. They were hunted for food and oil in the past, but now animals like goats and rats threaten their livelihood.
5. Red sea urchin (200 years): According to research, sea urchins that are very old are just as active and perky as ones that are super young. However, many of them die before they even turn one.
4. Greenland shark (392 years): These mysterious creatures live in the cold Arctic waters and they’re the oldest vertebrates on Earth. Scientists believe they hit maturity around age 150, which means females born in 1860 would now be first-time mothers.
3. Ocean quahog clam (507 years): These types of clams are popular for making clam chowder, and many are hundreds of years old. Eating a bowl of quahog clam chowder is kind of like eating living fossils.
2. Sponges (1,000+ years): Many people tend to forget each sponges are, in fact, animals, and their lifespans are absurdly long. Scientists have found some sponges to be over 10,000 years old! Insane!
1. Impossible jellyfish (immortal): This creature is amazing. To prevent death, it can actually de-age itself and return to its first life stage, where it then can create hundreds of clones of itself so it never actually dies.
Some creatures are known for their incredible lifespans; other grab attention for other biological features. The hooded seal of the the North Atlantic Ocean, for instance, is known for the striking nasal cavity located on top of its head. Hooded seals are a favored target for hunters.
2. The dugong is one of four species of Sirenia, more commonly known as sea cows. They’ve long been hunted for their meat and oil.
3. Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, otherwise known as the bumble bee bat, is the smallest known species of bat and one of the smallest mammals on earth. They’re in danger due to deforestation in their native Thailand.
4. The saiga antelope of the Eurasian steppes has been in danger for quite some time due to widespread hunting. A single one of their horns, said to posses restorative powers, can sell for as much as $150. A recent deadly epizootic plague has pushed them into “critically endangered” status.
5. Found primarily in central Europe, the olm is the only amphibian that spends its entire life underwater. Its eyes are undeveloped, but it has an incredible sense of smell and hearing. It is endangered due to pollution and other drastic changes to their environment.
6. The aye-aye is native to the island of Madagascar and is the world’s largest nocturnal primate. Believed to be extinct in the 1930s, the aye-aye was re-discovered in 1957 but is still listed as “endangered” due to habitat loss and hunting by farmers.
7. The Poecilotheria metallica or “gooty spider” is named so for its brilliant metallic blue coloring. Found in central southern India, the gooty spider is “critically endangered” as its habitat is being consumed by extensive logging.
8. The proboscis monkey is native to the southeast Asian island of Borneo and is easily identified by its distinctive nose. Ongoing habitat loss has caused the population to drop by almost 50% since 2008. They are currently listed as “endangered.”
9. The Okapi, a native of the Congo, may have stripes but it is actually closely related to the giraffe. Together, they are the only living members of the Giraffidae family. Though protected under Congolese law, the Okapi is still endangered due to logging and hunting.
10. The golden snub-nosed monkey is native to the mountainous forests of south eastern China. Spending 97% of its life in the forest canopy, the snub-nosed monkey is especially vulnerable to habitat loss. They are currently listed as “endangered.”
11. Bearded vultures live in the mountainous regions of southern Europe and in parts of north eastern Africa. They are the only living members of the genus Gypaetus and are highly evolved carrion eaters, able to dissolve and digest entire bones in their guts. Habitat destruction and poisonings resulting from eating contaminated carcasses has pushed their numbers to “near threatened.”
12. Native to Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, the markhor is a distinctive species of goat whose horns can grow up to 1.5 meters in length. Habitat loss and hunting has left current estimates of their population hovering somewhere around just 2,500 individuals.
13. The Chinese giant salamander is the largest amphibian in the world – growing as long as five feet in length – but that hasn’t made it any less vulnerable to pollution and habitat loss. It’s also considered a delicacy in China where they are now nearly extinct.
14. The purple frog of India is extremely rare, with only 135 of them having ever been observed. That’s probably because they spend most of their lives underground, only emerging during monsoon season to mate. Their small population is at risk from habitat loss as plantations expand throughout the region.
15. Found only in Australia, the quokka is the only member of the family Setonix. A small herbivore, the quokka requires extensive forestry for cover and protection from predators, making it very vulnerable to deforestation. They also have no fear of humans, which leads to a lot of unfortunate mishaps. They are currently classified as “vulnerable.”
16. Found in Australia and New Guinea, tree kangaroos are the only members of their family – which includes regular kangaroos, wallabies, and pademelons – that live entirely in trees. As such, like the quokka, they are highly susceptible to habitat loss. Without a tree to hide in, they’re easy prey for wild dogs and other predators. Hunting has also put a major dent in their numbers.
17. Another New Zealand resident, the kakapo is known for its distinctive green feathers and for being the only flightless member of the parrot family. Kakapos are also exceptionally long-lived for birds, with a life expectancy as high as 90 years. Kakapo numbers have been devastated by habitat loss and invasive predators. They are currently listed at critically endangered with as few as 120 left.
18. In a rare feat among decapods, the coconut crab actually spends the vast majority of its life on land. In fact, these enormous creatures will drown in sea water pretty quickly. Though they have no known natural predators, their meat is considered a delicacy in the south Pacific and they’ve been hunted to “vulnerable” status.
19. The monito del monte, or “little mountain monkey,” isn’t a monkey at all but a marsupial, and one of the only ones found outside of Australia and New Zealand. A native of Chile and Argentina, the monito del monte is now threatened due to habitat fragmentation and the introduction of domestic cats to their region.
20. Almost completely unseen for 60 years, the Horton Plains slender loris was thought to be extinct until researchers were finally able to identify one in 2002. Ranging from six to ten inches long and highly vulnerable, there may be fewer than 100 of these little primates left in the world.
21. The gharial is a fish-eating crocodile native to the northern part of the Indian subcontinent. It’s name comes from its unusual snout, which resembles a common piece of earthenware pottery known in India as a ghara. Hunted for trophies and indigenous medicines, gharials currently inhabit just 2% of their original range. There may be less than 235 of them left on Earth.
22. Despite being a national symbol in their home country of New Zealand, kiwi birds are severely threatened. These unique flightless birds are prey for rats, dogs, and stoats, and just 10% of kiwi chicks are currently estimated to be reaching adulthood.