Deep-sea sponges live into their 11-thousands, and certain mayflies only get 300 seconds to #yolo. But millions of other species roam the Earth, which has us wondering: Who are the oldest bird, reptile, mammal, and human on the planet today?
Oldest living animal on the planet: Jonathan the Aldabra Giant Tortoise
In 1832, a Seychellois Aldabra giant tortoise proudly watched as a clutch of her offspring cracked through their shells and waddled into the world. Today, one of her boys still lumbers around the South Atlantic island of Saint Helena, where he retired in 1882. His name is Jonathan; he lives on the governor’s estate, and at 188 years old, scientists believe he’s the oldest living land animal currently on the planet. Sociable and gentle, Jonathan regularly strolls around the property and courts human companionship.
These days, Jonathan is feeling great, but in his 183rd year, things looked bleak for the reptile. He’d gone blind, and his sense of smell had all but disappeared. Concerned, the governor enlisted Joe Hollins, a local vet, who trashed all the twigs in Jon’s pantry and put him on an apples-carrots-cucumbers-bananas-guava diet. The menu swap worked wonders, and today, ole’ Johnny is much healthier and tooling around the yard.
Compared to another giant tortoise named Adwaita, Jonathan is a young pup. A longtime resident of the Alipore Zoological Garden, Adwaita arrived in 1750 and stayed until 2006, 256 years.
Oldest living bird on the planet: Wisdom the Laysan Albatross
Wisdom, a Laysan albatross, is the oldest known bird currently flying the friendly skies. She hatched in 1951 and is presently about 69 years old. Researchers tagged 5-year-old Wisdom in 1956 and have since tracked her through the wild. Resilient and sturdy, over the decades, she’s flown three million miles and survived natural disasters that decimated her peers.
The avian community’s Michelle Duggar, Wisdom has laid 40 fruitful eggs to date. That’s about 100 percent more than the average albatross. And like all Laysan albatrosses — and TLC reality clans — Wisdom believes in mating for life. However, scientists think that the elderly avifauna found a younger partner when her first one passed away.
Oldest living mammal on the planet: Bowhead Whales
Bowhead whales are enormous, and they live for an extraordinarily long time. Residents of the Arctic and subarctic waters, bowhead whales have gargantuan triangle-shaped heads that pierce through ice like a hot knife through butter.
In our weight-conscience world, we tend to think of high metabolism as a good thing, but bowhead whales probably see it differently. Because they live in frigid temperatures, bowheads maintain low body temperatures, which slows metabolism. The result is less tissue damage and longer lifespans.
The average bowhead lives well into their hundreds, and the record holder swam the seas for 211 years. As such, scientists think that a 150-year-old whale is probably whizzing through the north somewhere.
Oldest living human on the planet: Kane Tanaka
At the time of this writing, Kane Tanaka, at 117, is the oldest planetary human. Born and raised in Japan, Tanaka married in 1922 and retired in 1966. These days, she lives in a hospital and spends her days strolling the halls, doing calculations, playing the board game Othello, and knocking back sweet beverages, her favorite.
A posthumous shout-out to Ming the Centuries-Old Clam
Even though we’re discussing the oldest animals alive today, we’d be remiss not to shout-out Ming, the 507-year-old quahog clam. Unfortunately, Ming is no longer with us. In 2006, marine biologists working in Icelandic waters accidentally offed the guy by opening his shell. At the time, the team thought he was 405 years old, but further study revealed that Ming was born in 1499, 260 years before humans discovered electricity.