Planet Earth has a long history of being home to millions of different species. The conditions that make life possible changed from bad to worse in the early years, and it was somewhat difficult for anyone or anything to survive in an unfriendly atmosphere. Today, although we are witnessing the destructive elements of global warming, there are some species that have lived through the turmoil and evolved along with all the problems that were, almost exclusively, caused by the human race.
The Great Basin Bristlecone Pine
Also known as Pinus longaeva, this tree is more than five thousand years old. It seems surreal for an organism to survive for that long, and not fall victim to their own biological cycle of life and death, or be devastated by external factors. This pine tree can be seen in several US states like Utah, California, or Nevada. However, there is more to this tree other than the fact that it is 5,065 years old, which slightly complicated the notion of ‘’oldest’’, as we discuss it now.
Technically speaking, we could think about how this tree is older than five thousand years. The pine tree you see is just a stem coming out of the ground. Pine tree stems live approximately 130 years, but the underlying genetic structure is much older, and some estimates say that the real number is closer to 80,000 years. So, the stem you see rising the ground shares the same genetic material as every other stem that grew from that location.
The World Of Bacteria
As you can already see, it is rather hard to determine what is the longest living organism on Earth. For example, in 2007, scientists found bacteria that are around 500,000 years old. They did not find a fossil, something that would only tell the story of a life form without the life form itself being present.
These bacteria were in a state of permafrost (a frozen state of a life form that is longer than two years), and they were (if we have to use this word to create a fundamental assumption of all life) - not dead. The bacteria, although set in an impossible setting where everything around them is ice, were fixing their DNA. One could say that they were adapting and finding a way to re-create themselves to survive under such harsh conditions.
Another example was presented in 2013, where scientists explained how they found 100 million years old microbes at the bottom of the sea. One thing about these organisms is that their reproduction rate is slow, scientists thought they were extinct. Lying on the bottom of the ocean, reproducing every 10,000 years, what a time to be a microbe!
Jonathan: 188-Year-Old Turtle
St. Helena is a small island in the South Atlantic, and it is home to the oldest animal you can find on land. Do not go there to upset this giant tortoise, as he was born in 1832, and has no time for taking photos.