8 Oldest Living Animals in the World

The average lifespan of the Earth’s animals can vary widely from just a few years to over a century. Many sea creatures such as sponges and corals can live for thousands of years, but these are often estimates and no official records exist. In fact, its often difficult for scientists to verify an animal’s exact age. With this in mind, most of the animals on this list have not had their ages confirmed. In most cases, their ages are based on stories, records, and pictures of the animals that date back several centuries.

8. Henry (unknown)

Oldest Age Reached or Current Age (as of 2018):  estimated at least 80 years, possibly more than 100
Species: Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus)
Current Location or Last Location:  Southland Museum, New Zealand

Henry (unknown)photo source: Wikimedia Commons

When Henry the tuatara became a father for the first time in 2009, his keepers estimated that he was about 111 years old, which drew international attention. However, since then, they have scaled back his age and believe he is at least 80 years old and possibly more than 100 due to his size.

According to a 2017 article, Henry has been living at the Southland Museum in New Zealand for 46 years and is the oldest tuatara in existence. Since coming to the museum, Henry has served as a mascot for New Zealand, often posing for photos and visiting with foreign dignitaries.


7. Timothy (c.1844 – 2004)

Oldest Age Reached or Current Age (as of 2018):  160 years
Species: Spur-thighed Tortoise (Testudo graeca)
Current Location or Last Location:  Powderham Castle, United Kingdom

Timothy (c.1844 – 2004)photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Despite the typically male name, Timothy was a female spur-thighed tortoise that lived to be 160 years old. It was believed that she was born in Turkey and she was discovered on a Portuguese privateer captured by Captain John Courtenay Everard of the Royal Navy in 1854.

She went on to become the mascot of several British ships including the HMS Queen. Timothy was aboard the ship during the bombardment of Sevastopol during the Crimean War, making her the last survivor of this war. After moving to a few more ships, Timothy was taken in the Earl of Devon in 1935, and lived at Powderham Castle until she died in 2004.


6. Harriet (c.1830 – 2006)

Oldest Age Reached or Current Age (as of 2018):  176 years
Species: Galápagos Tortoise (Geochelone nigra porteri)
Current Location or Last Location:  Australia Zoo, Queensland, Australia

Harrietphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Harriet the Galápagos tortoise is not only known for her long life, but also for her connection to Charles Darwin. Reportedly, she was collected by Darwin during his 1835 visit to the Galápagos Islands. Although this story is widely told, there is not much evidence proving that Harriet was actually one of Darwin’s tortoises – there is DNA evidence that she was from one of the islands that Darwin never visited.

Although Harriet may not have been connected to Darwin, she was a large part of Steve Irwin’s (the “Crocodile Hunter”) family as he and his wife owned the Australia Zoo where Harriet spent her later years.


5. Jonathan (c.1832 – Present)

Oldest Age Reached or Current Age (as of 2018):  186 years
Species: Seychelles Giant Tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea hololissa)
Current Location or Last Location: 
Island of Saint Helena (British Overseas Territory)

Jonathan photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Jonathan the giant tortoise is currently believed to be the oldest current living land animal in the world. He was supposedly born in 1832 and brought to his current home on the island of Saint Helena from the Seychelles in 1882. Although his age is unverified, a picture of Jonathan from 1886 exists and shows that he was fully matured at the time the photo was taken.

In 2017 Jonathan made international news when it was discovered that his mate, Frederica, is actually a male giant tortoise. Jonathan has been mating with Frederica since 1991 when he was gifted to the governor of St. Helena as a mate for Jonathan – the recent gender reveal explains why the pair have not been able to produce offspring.


4. Tu’i Malila (1777 – 1965)

Oldest Age Reached or Current Age (as of 2018):  188 years
Species: Radiated Tortoise (Geochelone radiata)
Current Location or Last Location: 
Royal Palace of Tonga

Tu'i Malilaphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Although there is another tortoise on this list that is reportedly older, Tu’i Malila is the longest-lived tortoise whose age has been authenticated and also verified by Guinness World Records. According to Tu’i Malila’s history, the tortoise was born sometime in 1777 and gifted to the royal family of Tonga by Captain James Cook (famed British explorer and captain of the Royal Navy) upon his visit to the island that summer.

Tu’i Malila remained in the care of the Tongan royal family until its death from natural causes in 1965. Today, Tu’i Malila’s preserved body is on display at the Royal Palace of Tonga.


3. Hanako (1751 – 1977)

Oldest Age Reached or Current Age (as of 2018):  226 years
Species: Scarlet Koi Fish (Cyprinus rubrofuscus)
Current Location or Last Location: 
Japan

Hanakophoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Hanako the scarlet koi fish was the longest living fish ever recorded. At the time of her death, she was an estimated 226 years old. In 1966, Hanako’s last owner, Dr. Komei Koshihara, made a radio broadcast on Japan’s Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) radio station to tell the story of Hanako. Koshihara  explained that he had inherited the fish from his maternal grandmother.

At the time, Koshihara said that Hanako was 215 years old, which was determined when his friend Professor Masayoshi Hiro counted the number of rings on two extracted scales. No one knows for sure why Hanako lived so long (koi typically live up to 50 years), but many people attribute her longevity to the clear waters of the Japanese mountains as well as the love and care of her owners.


2. Adwaita (c.1750 – 2006)

Oldest Age Reached or Current Age (as of 2018):  estimated 255 years
Species:  Aldabra Giant Tortoise
Current Location or Last Location: 
Alipore Zoological Gardens, Kolkata, India

Adwaita photo source: twistedsifter.com

Adwaita the Aldabra giant tortoise died in 2006 at an estimated age of 255 years old. At the time of Adwaita’s death, zoo officials from his home at the Alipore Zoological Gardens, said that they wanted to carbon date his shell to determine Adwaita’s exact age. While there have been no recent updates on the research into Adwaita’s age, if it can be confirmed, he would be the oldest terrestrial animal to have ever lived.

According to zoo officials, Adwaita was one of four tortoises brought to India as a gift for Lord Robert Clive of the East India Company in the 18th century. While the other tortoises died, Adwaita survived and lived in Clive’s garden before moving to the zoo in 1875.


1. Ming (c.1499 – 2006)

Oldest Age Reached or Current Age (as of 2018):  507 years
Species:  Ocean Quahog Clam (Arctica islandica)
Current Location or Last Location: 
Bangor University, North Wales, United Kingdom

Ming photo source: The Independent

Prior to Ming the clam‘s demise in 2006, it was the oldest living animal in the world. In 2007, several news outlets reported that researchers from Bangor University in the United Kingdom had killed the clam to determine its age.

However, lead researcher, James Scourse explained that Ming was one of 200 clams that were collected live from Icelandic shelf in 2006. All 200 clams died when they were frozen to be brought back to the U.K. for research.

Initially, researchers thought Ming was about 405 years old, but new research released in 2013 stated that Ming was actually 507 years old, the world’s oldest-recorded animal.

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