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What is the oldest living thing on earth? Who has the secrets to longevity?

Updated on November 11, 2016

Is it a person? a plant? a spore? a bacteria? or something in the back of the refrigerator? What can help us live longer? What is the key to anti-aging? There are few certain answers but that doesn't keep us from guessing. Actually scientists in a variety of fields from geology to forestry have been searching and measuring.

Oldest person?

Not counting Methuselah, we humans have a hard time cracking 100 years of age. Most people don't make it that far; those that do get their pictures in the paper.

Sketchy records and anecdotal claims can make age verification very difficult. The Gerontology Research Group researches these claims and tracks people over 110 years old. Here is their list of validated living supercentenarians...

Life expectancy is a moving target, thankfully moving upward. The world average is 67.2. Try to be born in Japan which leads the list of countries at 82.6. The shortest expectancy is Swaziland at 39.2.

Jeanne Louise Calment, was born on February 21, 1875 and lived 122 years and 164 days!
Jeanne Louise Calment, was born on February 21, 1875 and lived 122 years and 164 days!

1.5 Million Years Is a Long Time to Hide...

Scientists have found bacterial activity in a reddish feature on the side of Taylor Glacier on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, in a place called Blood Falls. The red comes from iron, and apparently so does the life force for this bacterial life form.

Scientists speculate that these microorganisms use iron that leaches from the glacial bedrock to perform a series of metabolic reactions that produce a life energy. The oxidized iron creates the red hue that leads to the Blood Falls name.

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains.
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains.

Oldest individual plant?

We're talking about a single plant here; one that reproduces externally - flowers, seeds. There are a few candidates including a creosote bush in the Mojave Desert, placed by some at 11,000 years old. However, most scientists agree on the Bristlecone Pine. Genus: Pinus, Species: longaeva.

How old? Dr. Edmund Schulman dated an individual plant in the White Mountains in California at over 4,700 years. This pine is nicknamed Methuselah, and it's location is kept secret to protect it.

Amazingly, this long living species, seems to thrive in the some of the harshest conditions. They are found in several US mountain ranges, typically at the 11,000 foot level. That is some very windy, very cold territory!

Another old sucker?

In Tasmania, we have the Kings Holly which is another sterile plant with no flowers, no seeds. The Kings Holly reproduces by root suckering and produces one big plant.

How big? 1-2 kilometers. How old? Estimated at 43,000 years, by the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service.

Meet B. permians from New Mexico
Meet B. permians from New Mexico

Oldest icky thing?

Then we have some spores contained in sea salt in Carlsbad, NM. Scientists can crack open these spores and find bacteria in suspended animation. Reactivate the bacteria and we have a living thing that can reproduce, B. permians.

How old? Try 250 million years!

Ooops - this one is also a little controversial as some other scientist think that no bacteria can remain viable this long, and that Mr. B. permians is actually contamination from the salt that isn't that old.

Quahog clam show their age on the outside, you count the rings...
Quahog clam show their age on the outside, you count the rings...
Giant tortoise from the Galapogos
Giant tortoise from the Galapogos

Happy as a clam...

A quahog clam was dredged from the Arctic waters off the coast of Iceland. It's age was calculated to be 405 years! Apparently you can see and count growth lines on the clams shell. Scientists are studying these growth lines as part of research on climate change.

This particular clam ends up in the record books instead of on the dinner table. Maybe there are antiaging vitamins in the sea?

Longest living things that walk, creep or fly?

Records like these generally come from zoos and aquariums. Conditions in the wild would alter numbers, but these are good for order of magnitude for oldest lining things by species:

Mammal, excluding human - an elephant lived for 69 years.

Bird - a turkey buzzard lived to 118 years and a swan to 102.

Reptiles - we have a giant tortoise that crept around for 152 years.

Amphibians - a giant salamander lasted 55 years.

Fish - no surprise that a catfish lived 60 years.

Insect - cicada is on the list for 17 years, but I saw somewhere that a queen ant lived for 25 years, as her colony came and went.

Hmmm, it seems like being big (elephant, giant tortoise) and belligerent (swan) helps. Being a good sleeper works for the cicada.

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Acknowledgements

I got the idea for this HubPage from Clay Thompson's article in the Arizona Republic. He has a daily column called Valley 101. He answers readers questions. He tends to pick odd questions, and then print his version of an answer - often interesting, usually humerous. He has one great job - research questions on the Internet all day and then write up the easy and interesting ones!

Animal, bird, insect numbers came from the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, click here for full list.

Blood Falls supports life?

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    • profile image

      taran 5 years ago

      I wish everybody live long

    • profile image

      matt 5 years ago

      We humans should only last at the maximum 100 and we have to attain old age and vanish so that there will be food for the people out thr who r just BORN on this beautiful earth ALL FOR GOOD & GOOD FOR ALL... imagine all people living for more that 100 years just for 10 years (No 1 died from past 10 years just imagine on this earth) will there be place to stay or to keep our FEET on this earth... we will kill ourselves for FOOD trust me.

      ( LET'S FLOW AS PER NATURE'S PROCEDURE )

    • Yoovle profile image

      Yoovle 5 years ago from at the beach

      Man, if the information about those B. permians is true then it's really amazing! 250 million years is quite a big number :)

    • carcro profile image

      Paul Cronin 6 years ago from Winnipeg

      Very interesting hub, Age is one of those subjects that captivates, we'd all love to live long healthy lives, its amazing that there are plants that live for hundreds and even thousands of years. Voted Up and Interesting!

    • profile image

      davey 6 years ago

      technically we are made up of carbon base but if you look at protons and nuculas atoms ect ect we and everything else are ancient metaphorically speaking

    • profile image

      neal 6 years ago

      to be honest we r killin earth cuz theres to many of us(were not killing each other as fast as we used too) we need to go back to old days where only the strong survived,an proceed to weed out everyone else that cant make there own livin...bam so in other words ppl need to die an not live to 100

    • Il_Padrino profile image

      Il_Padrino 6 years ago

      Very interesting hub...I will read it one more time !

    • profile image

      km 6 years ago

      I've read that Norwegian scientists discovered a Norwegian Spruce that is 9800 years old! Sounds like it might be the oldest living plant on earth.

    • rakoo profile image

      rakoo 6 years ago from Midwest

      You should look into Norwals, Godd Hub

    • chspublish profile image

      chspublish 6 years ago from Ireland

      Hope we all make it pass one hundred. That would be cool. Great hub, interesting facts that need digestion and consideration about living things on this planet. Thanks for the great hub.

    • D.Virtual.Doctor profile image

      Funom Theophilus Makama 6 years ago from Europe

      yeah, this is the oldest hub still receiving comments..... But can this life elongivity stuff work? Even if it does, I think its best to leave myself the way I am. Anything synthetic must have a side effect and to worsen the scenario, side effects may not be detected as early as possible until the damage has been done.

      Anyway, This is such an awesome hub. Very contemporary and indeed breath- taking. I am so privileged to read this hub because I am duly informed and educated. Hoping to read more of such hubs from you. Cheers!

      D.Virtual.Doctor

    • profile image

      lara bastery 6 years ago

      my fav thing is the oldest plant

    • profile image

      james evans 6 years ago

      Turritopsis nutricula can live for ever

    • profile image

      Tyler Mc 7 years ago

      I saw 1 very old man lived for 256 years he's was chinese person what I saw on the web!

      I saw another woman from another country but I for got it was located but she lived for little over 143 years!

      I ready hope I can live that long? But I still have a long life to live LOL!

    • profile image

      key 7 years ago

      there is a type of bug that goes 100 years in suspended animation and can wake up afterwards soo lets say

      its 1899 the Water Bear suspends and wakes up it is now 2010

    • profile image

      Sarah 7 years ago

      That's weird

    • adorababy profile image

      adorababy 7 years ago from Syracuse, NY

      Some of the oldest living things on earth are Bristlecone pine trees, some of which can be found in the White Mountains of California. Many of them are over four thousand years old.

    • secretscp profile image

      secretscp 7 years ago

      This is a really cool list. I had read before about that bristlecone plant. 4700 years is a long time for a plant!

    • profile image

      motlavivek 7 years ago

      The oldest living evidence on Earth was an atom of carbon which was found in I think Greenland, and was 3.6 billion years old. It was magnified over 6,200 time so that it could be seen.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Great article! I dig your style too Stankevicz! Glad to have a Tasmanian fan! Age is a strange thing, when you're young you don't care if you live old. But the older you get the more of it you want! I wouldn't be surprised if bacteria did "live" in suspended hibernation for a billion years, they are vigorous little buggers!

    • profile image

      mtsi1098 7 years ago

      I wouldn't mind staying around like the plant you presented here...Good information and thanks

    • profile image

      RELLL 7 years ago

      Oldest tortoise was 175 years old.

    • profile image

      Dave Mitchell 7 years ago

      Some bowhead whales (mammals) live over 200 years.

    • jstankevicz profile image
      Author

      jstankevicz 7 years ago from Cave Creek

      On a HubPage note, I noticed that this HubPage never generated any Adsense action, no clicks by the readers. All the Ads were about trees, tree services! Did a little fine tuning, we'll see what happens.

    • jstankevicz profile image
      Author

      jstankevicz 7 years ago from Cave Creek

      Thanks for all the comments! I never imagined the longevity this HubPage would have when I first created it.

    • AlanSwenson profile image

      AlanSwenson 7 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Super interesting, reminds me of those books I had when I was a kid, something like 20 grossest facts about people. I still love crazy factoids!

    • profile image

      Tumbleweed 7 years ago

      Believe you should include the 'termite queen' with her 50 year life span.

    • profile image

      joel kid 7 years ago

      this is great

    • Joel McDonald profile image

      Joel McDonald 7 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      And I think your hub is setting a record for oldest hub still getting comments. Congratulations!

      We once went to Sequoia National Forest, and were in awe of the trees - many of which were over 2000 years old. Interesting stuff!

      I also read just a few months ago that the oldest living human on earth currently lives in Montana. He is 107 years old.

    • profile image

      7 years ago

      the oldest fish is a type of carp that has lived over 200 years

    • tonyhubb profile image

      tonyhubb 7 years ago

      Very interesting article! Thank you!

    • hinckles koma profile image

      hinckles koma 8 years ago from nyc

      Nice hub.

    • profile image

      corey 8 years ago

      Very intewresting page

      thank you

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 8 years ago from Canada

      some cool things, thanks for sharing them

    • profile image

      Historian 8 years ago

      Recent studies indicate that a person identified as "Steve H." is the oldest living thing on Earth. He is a little hard of hearing, possibly due to the Big Bang being so loud, but is a kind, gentle soul.

    • profile image

      devansh rathi 8 years ago

      its very strange unbelieveable.

    • profile image

      keith 8 years ago

      i once had a goldfish that lived 32 seconds in the toilet bowl

    • Avare profile image

      Avare 8 years ago

      For a long-long life! Cheers :)

    • profile image

      Destiny Jade Danielle 8 years ago

      I like this info a good bit. I am only 15 but my teacher has me doing a researh project on this kind of stufff (and ect..). It has helped me a lot! I never knew most of this stuff and never was really interested but now that I have actually read it, it isn't that bad. It was more interesting than just readin on and on about stuff you really didn't want to know. Thanks for all the help!

    • profile image

      Dunk 8 years ago

      Nice stuff!!

      very interesting!!

      thank you

    • profile image

      Patra Cashmere 8 years ago

      That is cool of how long these people and organisms lived.

    • profile image

      brandon 8 years ago

      thats awesome stuff!~!

    • profile image

      Vernon Huffman 8 years ago

      Also should consider mushrooms, which are among the largest and oldest lifeforms on land.

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3692136.stm

      http://www.fungi.com/info/articles/nobilissimus.ht...

    • profile image

      Vernon Huffman 8 years ago

      I've heard that sturgeon gain about a pound a year and some weigh about a ton. How old are the oldest fish?

    • jstankevicz profile image
      Author

      jstankevicz 8 years ago from Cave Creek

      Depends on when the first half of the oatmeal was eaten...

    • profile image

      hatinonalbanians 8 years ago

      I've got a bowl of half eaten cereal next my bed that has mold in it that has GOT to be like 8 months old! Is there a record for that?

    • Journey * profile image

      Nyesha Pagnou MPH 8 years ago from USA

      I like this hub a lot. Thanks for writing!

    • profile image

      pankaj kumar 8 years ago

      i am very strange , it is interresting thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      ben 9 years ago

      https://hubpages.com/health/Indias-Oldest-Person

      and how convenient that he's from a country that doesnt keep accurate records...

      No offense, my wife is from India, but there is really nothing that would ever make me believe that this guy is anywhere near as old as he says he his...

      Besides, old people lie a lot. It's actually fairly natural as I see it, you get old, start to forget stuff...you make one thing up and someone believes it, then it snowballs from there.

      Plus, the older (or younger, if you're like me and were in trouble constantly when you were a little bugger) you are, the more you have to lie about.

      Anyway, you need a reliable source to be taken seriously.

    • profile image

      blackcherish 9 years ago

      if a tree lived for 80,000 years but didn't a metorite or metoer or what ever hit earth and destroyed mostly everything

    • Trsmd profile image

      Trsmd 9 years ago from India

      India's Oldest person died at 139 Years - 19.08.2008 Born on May 28, 1870, at Rajgarh in Rajasthan's Alwar district, Habib Mian had been suffering from fever and a bout of dysentery.He had joined the band of the erstwhile Jaipur Royal family as a clarinet player and retired from service in 1938. At that time, he received a pension of just Rs 1.46, which was later increased to Rs 2698.https://hubpages.com/health/Indias-Oldest-Person

    • jstankevicz profile image
      Author

      jstankevicz 9 years ago from Cave Creek

      Hi jon, said clam is now part of our story... thanks for the feedback.

    • profile image

      jon jaqua 9 years ago

      i heard that a clam was found to be 405 years old, that should be in your record book

    • guidebaba profile image

      guidebaba 9 years ago from India

      Interresting. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      chauphidaovan 9 years ago

      I am 43 years old and 10 out of 10 people said I look like I am 32 years old. Well...I hope I get to look like 75 when I am 102 years old. Just to let you kow that I eat alot of fruits and vegetables, very little meat. Also I am 99% stress free eventhough I work in an environment that tends to have lots of stress, computers. Thanks and long live to all.

    • cyndeehaydon profile image

      cyndeehaydon 9 years ago from Clearwater Florida

      Barbara Walters is havng a special this week to tell us how we can all live to be 150 years old - is that a good thing? :D

    • johnr54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 9 years ago from Texas

      It makes you wonder how we would treat the earth and our fellow earthlings if we knew we were going to be here centuries instead of decades.

    • jstankevicz profile image
      Author

      jstankevicz 9 years ago from Cave Creek

      Thanks Kimberly and Raphael. I hope you live that long!

    • profile image

      KIMBERLY AND RAPHAEL 9 years ago

      COOL! I WISH I WILL LIVE THAT LONG.<:

    • dc64 profile image

      dc64 9 years ago

      Very interesting. I love this kind of stuff! Debra

    • jstankevicz profile image
      Author

      jstankevicz 9 years ago from Cave Creek

      Thanks to ripplemaker, and Isabella - glad you enjoyed it.

      Tom, your comment made my day! Love, Grandpa...

      Lissie, thanks for linking up - great pictures of the fossil bed. For the record, stromatolites may be the oldest surviving fossil type, but I don't think there are individual cyano-bacteria that have been continuously knocking around that long...

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 10 years ago from New Zealand

      I think the stromatolites win myself http://hubpages.com/hub/Oldest-Living-bug for the photos!

    • profile image

      Tom Stankevicz 10 years ago

      Great job grandpa! I've never heard of anything that lives that long. Talk to you soon!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 10 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Great hub! I remember the oldest person who lived whom I know personally is the mother of my dad's friend. She died at age 100. She was still alert and walked fast. Truly amazing.

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 10 years ago

      Wow, very interesting hub!

    • jstankevicz profile image
      Author

      jstankevicz 10 years ago from Cave Creek

      Harlan, thanks for the nice comments on the writing. A writer wants to be read and enjoyed.

    • Harlan Lewin profile image

      Harlan Lewin 10 years ago from San Francisco

      I really like your writing style with its humorous delivery of very interesting information.

    • jstankevicz profile image
      Author

      jstankevicz 10 years ago from Cave Creek

      Thanks compu-smart, who doesn't want to live longer. Lots of great Hubs on the topic, so just added a links capsule pointing to Hubs by our resident expert livelonger, Jimmy, Dalene...

    • jstankevicz profile image
      Author

      jstankevicz 10 years ago from Cave Creek

      Hi livelonger, glad you checked in; was thinking of you whilst creating this Hub.

    • compu-smart profile image

      Tony 10 years ago from London UK

      This kind of stuff really interests me very much..

      Nice nugget of info;)

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 10 years ago from San Francisco

      Ha ha, this is right up my alley of interest! What an interesting comparison. Did not know about suckering, and how one tree can live on via its "clones" for thousands of years.

    • jstankevicz profile image
      Author

      jstankevicz 10 years ago from Cave Creek

      Thanks Guru-C! A long life to us all!

    • Guru-C profile image

      Cory Zacharia 10 years ago

      Great Hub with a long life!