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You Don’t Look a Day Over 10,000: 5 Amazing Super Old Organisms

You Don’t Look a Day Over 10,000: 5 Amazing Super Old Organisms

Am I the only one who considers their birthday to be just a reminder that you’re one year closer to death? I mean, how long can I even hope to live? Maybe 80 or 90 years, tops?

I have to remind myself that my life is a blip on the cosmic scale. But did you know that, really, the human life span is tiny when compared to other life on earth? It’s true.

Here are just a few living organisms that could make your life feel no grander than that of a fruit fly:

Great Basin Bristlecone Pine

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Turning 40? Bummed? Psh.

The Bristlecone Pine will have none of your whining — mostly because it’s a tree, but also because these particular pines are the oldest living individual organisms known to humankind.

We’ve even managed to pinpoint the oldest living Bristlecone Pine. Nicknamed “Methuselah,” this particular tree was measured by core sample in 1957. At the time, it was 4,789 years old.

So stop your complaining!

A Particular Patch of Mediterranean Seagrass

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

You’ll notice that in the previous section I specified that Bristlecone Pines are the oldest living individual organisms that we know of.

There are things, though, called “clonal colonies”  that are basically a group of genetically identical organisms that reproduce asexually — or “clone” themselves — from a single ancestor

Clonal colonies can live a very long time. A very long time. Parts of a particular patch of Mediterranean seagrass that stretches from Cyprus to Spain, known as Neptune Grass or Mediterranean tapeweed, are 200,000 years old!

“Humongous Fungus”

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Okay, 200,000 years is a long time to be alive. But what about being super old and super big?

You get both of those features in the “Humongous Fungus,” a single fungus that covers 3.4 square miles of Malheur National Forest in Oregon.

But calm down a minute. Don’t go picturing a giant mushroom cap that covers the rest of the forest like a terrifying umbrella. Like most, if not all mushrooms, the vast majority of the organism is underground.

The mycelium (basically, mushroom roots) can span great distances. The part that pops up out of the ground is just so the mushroom can reproduce. In the case of the Humongous Fungus, you could find two mushrooms of that particular species almost 3.5 miles apart, and it could be part of the same organism. That’s nuts!

And, if that wasn’t enough, the Humongous Fungus is also really old. It’s thought that the single specimen is about 2,400 years old…and counting.

Adwaita

Credit: Associated Press

It’s not only plants and fungi that can live an incredibly long time.

Adwaita was an Aldabra giant tortoise who lived in the Alipore Zoological Gardens in India.

At the time of his death in 2006, it was thought that he was about 255 years old. If that estimate is correct, that means he was born around 1750.

Yeah, Adwaita was older than the United States.

Coral

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Not to be outdone by a mere vertebrate, the invertebrates have their own contestant in the Longest Life competition. They’re sneaky, though. The invertebrate champions look like a plant.

Two species of coral — a gold coral and a black coral — have recently been shown to have life spans of thousands of years.

A specimen of a gold coral studied in 2009 turned out to be 2,742 years old. That’s old, but the black coral laughs in the gold coral’s face!

Using radiocarbon dating methods it was determined that a particular specimen of black coral is 4,265 years old. That makes it possibly the oldest living marine organism.

Puts your time on this planet into perspective, doesn’t it?

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Image credit: Thinkstock.

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56 comments

+ add your own
7:35AM PDT on Aug 25, 2013

pretty awesome, esp the tree

3:55PM PDT on Aug 19, 2013

Beautiful nature!!!

7:37AM PDT on Aug 7, 2013

thanks for sharing

12:42PM PDT on Jul 23, 2013

Thanks for this great article.

6:46AM PDT on Jul 22, 2013

Interesting, thanks.

4:42PM PDT on Jul 17, 2013

thank you for posting this!

2:56AM PDT on Jul 17, 2013

Very interesting. Thanks.

12:35AM PDT on Jul 17, 2013

Ty

10:03PM PDT on Jul 16, 2013

I learn something new every day. Thank you.

7:21PM PDT on Jul 16, 2013

All the wonders we're about to lose forever.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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