THIS year, Tommy the tortoise turned 121, having been born in 1898.
The remarkable reptile is now the world’s oldest living pet — but that’s still a whopping 400 years shy of the world’s oldest shark.
Tommy the tortoise has lived through six different monarchs, 21 US presidents, and 29 prime ministers.
But that’s nothing compared to one Greenland shark found which may have been born as early as 1507, which is 200 years before Britain first had a prime minister and two years before Henry VIII became king.
And even that astonishing age pales in comparison to the achievement of one type of jellyfish: biological immortality.
All over the planet, there are certain species which seem to just keep on living — and some incredibly special individual animals which outlast all others of their kind.
Here are some of the oldest living animals around the world.
Animal: Greenland shark
Age: 272 – 512
Lives: North Atlantic Ocean
In the icy waters of the North Atlantic, a shark was recently discovered which scientists believe may have been born before Shakespeare.
The massive Greenland shark is said to be the world’s oldest vertebrate at a possible age of 512.
Greenland sharks grow about 1cm a year and have been known to live for hundreds of years.
Boffins used its huge length – over 18ft – and radiocarbon dating to work out that the ancient fish must have been between 272 and 512 years old.
Radiocarbon dating is a scientific method for working out how old carbon-based materials are that came from a living organism, like this shark.
Animal: Bowhead whale
The bowhead whale is the daddy of all marine mammals when it comes to lifespan.
And as well as its impressive 200-year lifetime, the Arctic giants are also famed for having the largest mouth of any mammal.
In 2007, a group of Alaskan Inuit caught four bowhead whales on a fishing trip – and one of them six harpoons in its blubber dating to the late 1800s.
They estimated that it must have been about 211 years old, making it the oldest bowhead found.
Animal: American lobster
Lives: North Atlantic Ocean
A lobster named George snaps up the enviable title of world’s oldest lobster.
Hatched sometime around 1869, the crustacean was caught in 2008 and sold to a seafood restaurant in New York.
George, who weighed 20lbs, only spent about 10 days in the restaurant’s tank before animal rights activists PETA began lobbying for his freedom.
He was released into the ocean off the coast of Maine to live out the rest of his old age in the wild.
Cockatoos generally live for about 60 years – but have been known to last over a century in captivity.
And Fred, a sulphur-crested cockatoo in Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in Tasmania, is now 104 years old.
He was even sent a telegram by the Queen to mark his 100th birthday in 2014.
Another sulphur-crested cockatoo called Cocky Bennet who also lived in Australia was believed to have lived till 120 before he died in 1916.
The large white species is mostly found in Oz, New Guinea and some of the islands of Indonesia.
Their loud call and high intelligence can make them extremely demanding pets – especially if you have to look after them for 100 years.
Became a dad at 111
Lives: New Zealand
Tuatara’s ancestors once lived alongside the dinosaurs, and they are the only lizards of their kind to still be around today, 200 million years later.
The reptiles are native to New Zealand – where their oldest member, Henry, also lives.
Although they typically have a lifespan of around 60 years, Henry the tuatara is at least 120 years old.
He made headlines in 2009 when he became a dad for the first time – at the age of 111.
At the time, Henry’s partner Mildred was scandalously only in her 70s.
Henry, who lives at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery on South Island, previously attacked females or flat-out ignored them.
Animal: Asian elephant
Asian Elephants, the smaller counterparts to their African cousins, normally live into their mid-50s.
But Ambika, who lives at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC, is now estimated to be 71 years old.
She’s still some way off the record for the oldest elephant ever recorded in captivity – a title held by Dakshayani, who died in India in February at the staggering age of 88.
She was given the title “Gaja Muthassi” or “elephant granny” by her many fans.
Dakshayani had beat the previous record holder, Lin Wang, who died in Taiwan aged 86, and who had served with the British Army during the Second World War.
Still monkeying around
Animal: Western lowland gorilla
Fatou the gorilla celebrated her 62nd birthday in April this year at her home in the Berlin Zoo.
She was brought to Germany from a French bar in 1959 – she originally ended up at the boozer in Marseille as a baby when a sailor used her as payment.
In 1974, she gave birth to the first ever gorilla to be raised entirely in Berlin named Dufte.
Fatou previously shared the title of world’s oldest gorilla with another western lowland gorilla named Trudy, who died just last month in Arkansas.
Found in the Congo Basin, the species is the most widespread of all gorillas and they usually live between 30 and 40 years.
Animal: Ocean quahog clam
One ocean quahog clam named Ming was dredged off the coast of Iceland in 2006.
Scientists worked out its age by counting the annual growth lines in its shell and, to their amazement, discovered it was 507 years old.
The clam was given the nickname “Ming” after the Chinese Ming dynasty, during which the clam was born.
Icelandic researchers which found it called it “Hafrun” which means “mystery of the ocean”.
Animal: European eel
In 2014, a resident in the little Swedish fishing town of Brantevik said his pet eel died at the age of 155.
Tomas Kjellman said the eel lived in his well and was popular with guests coming round for traditional crayfish parties.
In 1859, an eight-year-old boy dropped the eel into the well and it had been a source of fascination in Sweden ever since.
That’s because normally only live around seven years – but this one just kept on going.
Animal: Rougheye rockfish
Lives: Pacific Ocean
The rougheye rockfish is probably the longest living marine fish species on Earth.
One was recorded in 2001 to be 205 years old.
They’re called “rougheye” rockfish because of the ten spines that stick out of their lower eyelids.
And they’re commonly found around the sea floor near caves and boulder fields where they feats on shrimp, crab and other fish.
Lives: European caves
Olms usually only live for about 68 years, but some have been known to surpass 100.
These odd little creatures therefore live much longer than other amphibians of their size.
Although they’re completely blind, they use their snake-like bodies to swim away from light.
They’re so good at surviving, in fact, that they can go 10 years without food by using glycogen stored in their livers.
Ancient beasts: Some of the world’s longest-living creatures
- Aldabra giant tortoise – Species has been known to live to up to 255 years old, making it the oldest terrestrial animal in the world
- Glass sponges (pictured) – Primitive animal found in the East China Sea and Southern Ocean, examples have been found that are over 10,000 years old
- Endolith – A microspopic organism that lives inside rock. One was found on the ocean floor in 2013 generation time of 10,000 years
- Hydra – an ocean species that does not age, making it technically immortal
- Creme Puff – The oldest known domestic cat, who died in Austin Texas in 2005 aged 38 years and three days
Grow a spine
Animal: Red sea urchin
Lives: Pacific ocean
Red sea urchins are completely covered in sharp spines which can ruin your day, 200 years in the making.
They have mouths on their underside surrounded by five teeth, and it can crawl very slowly along the seabed using “tube feet”, little tubular limbs on its underside.
Red sea urchins normally have a lifespan over 30 years, but radiocarbon dating has identified some over two centuries in age.
They are famously for ferociously eating kelp, devastating kelp beds when they move into an area.
Animal: Maine Coon cat
Amazingly, the oldest domestic cat in the world lives in Exeter in Devon.
Rubble turned 31 this year and has been with the same owner, Michele Foster, ever since 1988.
On his 30th birthday last year, Michele said: “He’s a lovely cat, although he has got a little grumpy in his old age.
“I got him just before my 20th birthday when he was a kitten.
“He has plenty of life in him yet, but I don’t think we will go down the Guinness World Record route as I am not sure he would like lots of people coming to see him or a fuss being made out of him.”
The oldest cat ever recorded lived in Texas and was called Creme Puff, who was born in 1967 and died in 2005 – living an incredible 38 years and three days.
Animal: Turritopsis dohrnii
Lives: Mediterranean Sea
That’s right, there’s actually a species of jellyfish which is not only immortal, it sort of ages backwards.
As time passes, Turritopsis dohrnii settles on to the seabed and turns itself into a colony of separate organisms called polyps.
These polyps in turn spawn new, genetically identical jellyfish.
Some types of jellyfish exhibit biological immortality (stock photo)
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The adult version of the free-swimming jellyfish is known to eat other jellyfish and can willingly revert to its polyp stage if it’s attacked or gets sick, theoretically living forever if it avoids being eaten.
Now scientists are studying the amazing animal’s anti-aging biology to further with regenerative medicine – the branch of medicine which seeks to repair or regrow damaged cells and organs.
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