Unlocking the Secrets of Lifespan: Exploring the World’s Longest Living Animals

December 14, 2020 in animal welfare, environment

Article summary and Key takeaways: This article explores the lifespans of various animals, highlighting the longest living land animals, animals in captivity, ocean-dwelling animals, sharks, and reptiles. The Galapagos tortoise and the Greenland shark are among the longest living animals, with lifespans exceeding 100 years and 400 years, respectively. The article also provides a list of average lifespans for different animals, comparing them to the human lifespan. Overall, studying the lifespans of these animals offers insights into the natural world and emphasizes the importance of conservation.

Longest Living Animals

Have you ever wondered which animals have the longest lifespans? Lifespan, or the length of time an animal can live, varies greatly among different species. Some animals have relatively short lifespans, while others can live for several decades or even centuries. Studying the longest living animals not only provides us with fascinating insights into the natural world, but it also helps us understand the factors that contribute to longevity.

Longest Living Land Animals

The land is home to a wide variety of animals, many of which have impressive lifespans. Let’s take a closer look at some of the longest living land animals:

1. Galapagos Tortoise

The Galapagos tortoise is perhaps one of the most well-known examples of a long-lived land animal. These magnificent creatures can live for over 100 years, with some individuals reaching ages of up to 150 years or more. Their large size and slow metabolism contribute to their extended lifespans. In fact, the oldest recorded Galapagos tortoise was believed to have lived for 175 years!

2. Bowhead Whale

While not a land animal, the bowhead whale deserves a mention in this list due to its incredibly long lifespan. These majestic creatures, found in the Arctic and subarctic waters, can live for over 200 years! Their long lifespan is believed to be a result of their slow metabolism and the absence of natural predators in their environment.

Longest Living Animals in Captivity

Studying the lifespan of animals in captivity can sometimes be challenging due to various factors such as diet, living conditions, and healthcare. However, there are a few notable examples of animals that have lived exceptionally long lives in captivity:

1. Adwaita, the Aldabra Giant Tortoise

Adwaita was a male Aldabra giant tortoise who resided in the Alipore Zoological Gardens in Kolkata, India. He is believed to have been born sometime in the late 1700s, making him one of the oldest known animals to have lived in captivity. Adwaita lived for an astounding 255 years, passing away in 2006.

2. Harriet, the Galapagos Tortoise

Harriet, another Galapagos tortoise, was born around 1830 on the Galapagos Islands. She was taken to Australia by Charles Darwin himself during his famous voyage on the HMS Beagle. Harriet lived for over 175 years before passing away in 2006, making her one of the oldest known animals at the time.

Lifespan of Animals List

Curious to know the average lifespans of various animals? Here is a compilation of different animals and their average lifespans:

Short-lived animals:

  • Mosquito: 2-4 weeks
  • Guppy: 2-3 years
  • Mouse: 1-3 years

Medium-lived animals:

  • Dog: 10-13 years
  • Cat: 12-16 years
  • Horse: 25-30 years

Long-lived animals:

  • Elephant: 60-70 years
  • Macaw: 50-60 years
  • Galapagos tortoise: 100-150 years

Oldest Living Animals in the Ocean

Determining the age of ocean-dwelling animals can be quite challenging, as they often lack visible growth rings or other markers of age. However, scientists have managed to identify a few incredibly long-lived creatures:

1. Greenland Shark

The Greenland shark, found in the cold waters of the North Atlantic, is known for its exceptionally long lifespan. Recent studies have suggested that these sharks can live for over 400 years, making them the longest living vertebrates on Earth!

2. Ocean Quahog

Deep in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, the ocean quahog thrives. These bivalve mollusks have been found to live for over 500 years, with one individual estimated to have lived for a staggering 507 years!

Comparisons with Human Lifespan

When it comes to comparing animal lifespans with that of humans, we find some stark differences. While humans typically live for 70-80 years on average, some animals far exceed this lifespan. However, it’s important to note that factors such as lifestyle, diet, and access to healthcare play a significant role in human longevity.

Interestingly, the oldest recorded human, Jeanne Calment, lived for 122 years and 164 days. While this is an impressive age for a human, it pales in comparison to the lifespans of animals like the Greenland shark or the ocean quahog.

Longest Living Sharks

Sharks are known for their impressive lifespans, with some species living for several decades. Let’s explore some of the longest living shark species:

1. Greenland Shark

As mentioned earlier, the Greenland shark takes the crown for the longest living vertebrate on Earth. These slow-growing sharks can live for over 400 years, making them true oceanic time travelers.

2. Spiny Dogfish

The spiny dogfish is a small shark species commonly found in temperate waters around the world. These sharks have been known to live for up to 70 years, making them one of the longest living shark species.

Longest Living Reptiles

Reptiles are another group of animals known for their impressive lifespans. Let’s take a look at some of the longest living reptile species:

1. Galapagos Tortoise

The Galapagos tortoise once again makes an appearance on this list. With their slow metabolism and lack of natural predators on the Galapagos Islands, these tortoises can easily live for over 100 years, with some individuals reaching ages of up to 150 years or more.

2. Tuatara

The tuatara is a unique reptile species found only in New Zealand. These ancient creatures can live for over 100 years, making them one of the longest living reptiles on the planet. It’s fascinating to think about the stories these tuataras could tell if only they could speak!


The world of the longest living animals is filled with incredible stories of resilience and adaptation. From the ancient Galapagos tortoises to the enigmatic Greenland sharks, these creatures have stood the test of time. Studying their lifespans not only provides us with valuable insights into the natural world but also reminds us of the importance of preserving and protecting these remarkable species.

So next time you ponder the concept of time, remember the Greenland shark that has witnessed centuries pass by or the Galapagos tortoise that has outlived generations. Longevity in the animal kingdom is a testament to the wonders of evolution and the power of nature.

Question 1:
Answer: The Greenland shark has the longest life span among animals.

Question 2:
Answer: No animal can live up to 1000 years.

Question 3:
Answer: The longest living animal recorded is the immortal jellyfish.

Question 4:
Answer: No animal can live 5000 years.


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About the author 

Taylor Kenny

Hi everyone, I'm Taylor. As a Cornell-educated veterinarian, my career has been focused on the welfare of animals. From bustling vet clinics to serene wildlife sanctuaries, my experiences have taught me the importance of compassion and understanding in animal care. I'm here to share my knowledge, experiences, and tips on how we can all make a difference in the lives of animals.