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Top of the World: The Ten Longest Living Animals

While you may shiver at the mere thought of the polar regions’ frigid waters, scientists believe they may play a part in the longevity of some of the world’s longest-living animals. Watch this video to count them down, from albatross to whales to jellyfish.

Video Transcript

Humans these days live an average of eighty years or so. But did you know there are plenty of animals who live almost twice that long? Amazingly, some of these animals are found in the cold polar regions. Scientists say the frigid waters may slow down their metabolisms, allowing them to live longer.

10. The Albatross

The albatross may look like a massive gull, but it's so much more than that. These mighty birds have a wingspan of up to three and a half metres. They can stay in the air for hours! As tube noses, albatrosses can drink saltwater, allowing them to remain at sea for long periods. If you do happen to see them on land, chances are they're mating or raising chicks. In 2018, a sixty-seven-year-old albatross named Wisdom hatched what is believed to be her thirty-sixth chick.

9. Geoduck

They may not be the most attractive animal in the world, but these big clams can live very long lives—up to 160 years! Their long siphons can grow to a metre in length, and they can weigh up to four and a half kilos. Geoducks are eaten on the Pacific coast of North America. They're said to taste like a clam with a slight crunch.

8. Red Sea Urchin

Depending on conditions, these red sea urchins can live for over a century. In California, they're known to live for up to fifty years, but in the colder waters off British Columbia, many of them are over 200 years old. Eleven species of sea urchin can even be found in the Arctic. They're food for various fish, mammals, and people.

7. Koi

A domesticated variety of the common carp, the koi's average lifespan is about thirty years. But if given the right environment, like a clean, deep pond with plenty of shade, they can live significantly longer. One famous koi in Japan reached the age of 226.

6. Bowhead Whale

Another Arctic creature comes in at #6: the bowhead whale. The second largest mammal on the planet, the bowhead whale lives for an average of 200 years. Many have been found with harpoon fragments in their blubber that date back to the 1800s.

5. Giant Tortoise

The giant tortoise sleeps for up to sixteen hours a day and can go up to a year without drinking water or eating any food. This relaxed lifestyle leads to them living for an average of 100 years. Some of them even longer, like this Aldabra giant tortoise, who died in 2006, after reaching the age of 250.

4. Greenland Shark

Living in the waters of—you guessed it—Greenland, this shark lives for 300 to 500 years. It has the longest known lifespan of any vertebrate species.

3. Ocean Quahog

The ocean quahog is a hard clam found along the east coast of the Americans, from Prince Edward Island all the way south to Yucatan, Mexico. Its lifespan was thought to be around 225 years, but one ocean quahog was confirmed to be 507 years old. Presumably, this individual might have lasted even longer if it had not been harvested.

2. Sponges & Corals

Species such as red coral can live up to 500 years, but they're not the only immobile marine creature that can live an extremely long time. Monorhaphis chuni, a species of sponge that can live more than 2,000 meters under the sea, can live for 11,000 years.

1. The Immortal Jellyfish

The Turritopsis dohrnii jellyfish is the planet's only known immortal species. Once it reproduces, it reverts back to a polyp stage and lives its life over and over again.

There you have it: a selection of some of the longest lived animals on Earth. Isn't it intriguing how many of them make their homes in cold water? What do they know that we don't?