Environment

What Is The Oldest Living Thing In The World?

Some of the oldest things on earth are thought to be thousands of years old.

Various living species have different life spans with some living for only days while others can survive for thousands of years. Scientists have developed various methods to determine the age of most organisms accurately, for example, the ring count method used to determine the age of trees. Plant species have been recorded to outlive most animal species.

The Oldest Living Bacteria

While researching rocks in New Mexico, scientists from Texas and Pennsylvania discovered and revived a single bacterium that was more than 250 million years old within a salt crystal. To allay fears of contamination, the scientists tested the rock formation and proved that the specimen had not been contaminated. Previously the oldest bacteria had been one revived at the California Polytechnic State University by Raul Cano that was around 25 to 30 million years old. The bacteria had been taken from a bee that had been discovered trapped in amber. Bacteria can survive for a very long period as they can completely stop their metabolism until conditions become ideal for them to survive.

The Oldest Living Tree

Scientists consider trees in two categories when determining their age; clonal colonies and individual plants. Clonal colonies are a group of organisms that are all the same genetically. Individuals do not live as long as the entire colony, however, since they are genetic clones only the age of the whole organism is considered. Located in the state of Utah in the US, Pando is the oldest living clonal colony at 80,000 years. The clonal colony is made up of male quaking aspen spread out over an area of 106 acres. Accurately estimating the age of most clone colonies has proven to be a challenge as the more conventional methods such as counting tree rings cannot be used. Due to the difficulty in accurately estimating the age of the colonies, the age of a colony of sea grass growing in the Mediterranean Sea could not be accurately ascertained. The estimates range from 12,000 to 200,000 years old. The oldest individual species in a clonal colony are 3,000 years old from a Huon pine colony in Tasmania.

The oldest living individual tree is a Great Basin bristlecone pine in the US christened Methuselah. The tree is more than 5,000 years old, and its exact location is a closely guarded secret to keep it safe. The oldest individual tree in Europe is thought to be Llangernyw Yew. Though its exact age is unknown, the tree is believed to be between 4,000 and 5,000 years old. In Asia, the oldest living tree is the Cypress of Abarkuh. The age of the cypress is likely to be between 4,000 to 5,000 years old.

Longest Living Aquatic Creatures

Some aquatic species have been known to live for an extended period with most being able to live for over 1,000 years. The Immortal Jellyfish was observed to be able to revert to its immature stage once it had reached maturity. Scientists are yet to study the species for a great length of time and have not been able to determine the age of a single organism. Glass sponges growing in the East China Sea have an estimated age of over 10,000 years making them some of the oldest aquatic creatures. Barrel sponge in the Caribbean has an estimated of more than 2,300 years. Hanako was a Koi fish that died on July 7, 1977, at the age of 226 years old, making it the oldest recorded Koi fish. Bowhead whales live the longest among mammals, having been confirmed to live to at least 211 years. Living to at least 272 years, the Greenland Shark lives the longest among all vertebrates.

The Oldest Living Land Animals

A Seychelles giant tortoise named Jonathan is thought to be the oldest living land animal at approximately 186 years old. Jonathan took the title from a spur-thighed tortoise christened Timothy. Timothy died aged 165 on April 3, 2004, at the Powderham Castle in the UK. At more than 80 years old, the oldest living alligator is Muja. The oldest bird living in the wild is Wisdom, a female albatross that is approximately 67 years old. Wisdom laid and hatched an egg when she was 66 years old. An Asian elephant named Lin Wang currently holds the record for the oldest elephant. At the time of his death on February 26, 2003, Lin Wang was around 84 years old. The oldest cockatoo in captivity died at 83 years old in the Brookfield Zoo. The oldest orangutan, Nonja, lived to an estimated age of 55 years.

Increasing the Human Lifespan

Jeanne Calment has the distinction of being the oldest person ever to live as she died at the age of 122 years old on August 4, 1997. At the moment Chiyo Miyako from Japan holds the record for the longest living person at 117 years old. In most countries across the world, the average human life expectancy has risen greatly as scientists discover the cures for most diseases. Far fewer children are dying before their fifth birthday mainly because of the use of vaccines to prevent early childhood diseases such as measles. Scientists are developing more technologies to keep aging and its effects at bay. Elysium Health is a company that was created to look into how to counteract aging. Scientists from the company are dedicated to finding a way to alter the human metabolism to prolong the human lifespan. Novartis, one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies, has made great strides with a mysterious protein. When injected into the bloodstream of mice, especially older mice, the protein has proven effective at rejuvenating muscles and the brain. Human trials of the mysterious protein are yet to be conducted. Researchers at Calico, a company, funded by Google, are developing nanobots to combat cancer cells from within the body. Companies have begun researching how to print human organs to replace worn out organs. Using 3D printing technology will reduce the time taken by large numbers of people to get organ donations. Printed organs also have a higher likelihood of being accepted by the body since they will be made using the patients DNA.The emergence of such technologies ensures that people can live for far longer than previously thought possible.

More in Environment