How Long Animals Live: The Life Spans of 50 Animals

How long do animals live? We’ve illustrated the life span of animals from rodents to humans to sharks, showing how animal longevity ranges from a few years to 500 or more! See where you lie on our list of the life spans of 50 animals.

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What Animal Lives the Longest?

#1: The Immortal Jellyfish: Biologically Immortal

Turritopsis_dohrnii

Photo by Bachware (Wikimedia.org)

The animal with the longest life span is biologically immortal: Turritopsis dohrnii, also called the “immortal jellyfish.” This tiny creature can essentially hit the reset button in its growth, sexually maturing and then reverting to a sexually immature version of itself in a process called transdifferentiation, or the practice of converting adult cells to another type of tissue. This process has been getting some intense study as researchers work on gene therapies for humans. (Who knows? Perhaps one day human beings will discover how to transdifferentiate cells like these jellyfish do.) While it might not be a specific number of years, it’s clear that the immortal jellyfish has the longest life span of any animal.

#2: Black Coral: 4,265 (±44) years

A specific species of black coral, Leiopathes glaberrima, which is technically an animal and one of the longest-living organisms on the planet, grows at an intensely slow rate; a Hawaiian specimen was reported to have an age of 4,265(±44) years.

#3 Giant Barrel Sponges: 2,300 years

Giant barrel sponges, sometimes called “the redwoods of the ocean,” can live into the thousands as well, with one specimen living to 2,300 years.

#4: Ming the Ocean Quahog: 507 years

Reports have boasted of this old creature, nicknamed Ming, with some news outlets accusing scientists of killing it and other sources claiming that the resulting blowback was overblown. The 507-year-old shelled creature died in 2006, but it would have lived in the era of wooden ships!

#5: The Greenland Shark: 392 (±120) years

The Greenland shark hit the news as well, as specimens were reported to be anywhere between 272 and 512 years old. They also don’t reproduce until they’re about 150 years old.

Of course, animals are not necessarily the longest-living organism; that honor likely goes to a 5,065-year-old plant, the bristlecone pine. Of course, when you add in other factors, like biological immortality, it can definitely be difficult to rank the oldest organisms.

What Animal Has the Shortest Life Span?

The shortest life span an animal has is only a day. The “winner” here is an insect, specifically the mayfly, found near streams and lakes worldwide. A day in the life of a mayfly must be pretty intense!

 

The Life Span of Animals: A List of Common and Incredible Animals

AnimalAverage Life Span in the Wild
House Mouse1
Fowler’s Toad5
Pigeon5
Kangaroo (Western Grey)6
Squirrel (Eastern Grey)6
Cheetah10
Chicken10
Emu10
Pronghorn10
Dog13
Bobcat15
Grizzly Bear15
Red-Crowned Crane15
Channel Catfish15
Tiger15
Cow20
American Bison20
Southern Two-Toed Sloth20
Rattlesnake (Eastern Diamondback)20
Polar Bear25
Horse25
Burmese Rock Python30
Naked Mole Rat30
Orangutan45
Koi50
American Alligator50
Lobster50
Radiated Tortoise50
Japanese Giant Salamander50
Bald Eagle50
Asian Elephant50
Andean Condor50
Olm58
Greater Flamingo60
Green-Winged Macaw60
Tuatara60
Human79
Red Sea Urchin100
Galápagos Tortoise100
Freshwater Pearl Mussel130
Geoduck140
Aldabra Giant Tortoise255
Bowhead Whale200
Rougheye Rockfish205
Deep-Sea Tube Worm250
Greenland Shark272
Ocean Quahog507
Giant Barrel Sponge2,300
Black Coral4,309
Immortal JellyfishBiologically Immortal

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