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.
What Animal Lives the Longest?
#1: The Immortal Jellyfish: Biologically Immortal
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
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
|Animal||Average Life Span in the Wild|
|Kangaroo (Western Grey)||6|
|Squirrel (Eastern Grey)||6|
|Southern Two-Toed Sloth||20|
|Rattlesnake (Eastern Diamondback)||20|
|Burmese Rock Python||30|
|Naked Mole Rat||30|
|Japanese Giant Salamander||50|
|Red Sea Urchin||100|
|Freshwater Pearl Mussel||130|
|Aldabra Giant Tortoise||255|
|Deep-Sea Tube Worm||250|
|Giant Barrel Sponge||2,300|
|Immortal Jellyfish||Biologically Immortal|