The Oldest Living Animals on Earth Today in 2024

Written by Rebecca Bales
Updated: November 18, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Jonathan the Giant Tortoise is believed to be the oldest land animal on earth, born in 1832 in eastern Africa. There was another giant tortoise named Adwaita who lived to be 256 years old!
  • The oldest living bird, tagged in 1951, is a Laysan albatross named Wisdom. She’s flown over 3 million miles and laid 40 eggs in her lifetime.
  • Bowhead whales easily live into their hundreds because they inhabit frigid waters, maintain low body temps, and have very slow metabolisms. The result is longer lives and less tissue damage.

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Sea sponges live into their thousands, and some mayflies only get 300 seconds to #yolo. But Earth is filled with millions of species, which got us wondering: Who is the oldest animal in the world today?

Oldest Animal in the World: Jonathan the Giant Tortoise

This tortoise is the oldest animal in the world that we know of so far. In 1832, an Aldabra giant tortoise in eastern Africa watched her babies crack their shells and lumber into the world. Today, one of her sons is still kicking it on St. Helena Island, where he retired in 1882.

His name is Jonathan; he lives on the governor’s estate, and at 188 years old, scientists believe he’s the oldest living land animal currently on Earth. Slow, gentle, and surprisingly sociable, Jonathan regularly strolls around his gardens and courts human company.

These days, Jonathan feels great. But five years ago, things looked bleak when he lost his eyesight and sense of smell! The governor summoned Joe Hollins, a local veterinarian, who put Jonathan on a strict diet of apples, carrots, guava, cucumbers, and bananas.

The lifestyle change worked wonders, and today, Johnny is living his best life.

But compared to Adwaita, another giant tortoise, Jonathan is a youngster. A longtime resident of the Alipore Zoological Garden, Adwaita lived for 256 years!

An Aldabra giant tortoise standing in the grass.

The oldest

Aldabra giant tortoise

lived to be 256 years old.

©Katiekk/Shutterstock.com

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Oldest Living Human: Kane Tanaka

Humans are mammals, so who is the oldest animal in the world when it comes to humans? Kane Tanaka, at 117, is the oldest living human. Born and raised in Japan, Tanaka married in 1922 and retired in 1966. Today, she lives in a hospital and spends her days doing math calculations, strolling the halls, playing Othello, and drinking sweet beverages, her favorite.

But Ms. Tanaka still hasn’t beaten Jeanne Calment’s record. The French woman lived for 122 years and 164 days before passing away in 1997.

Oldest Living Bird: Wisdom the Laysan Albatross

A Laysan albatross named Wisdom is one of the oldest living animals currently whizzing through the friendly skies. She hatched in 1951 and still flying strong. Researchers tagged 5-year-old Wisdom in 1956. Since then, they’ve tracked her through the wild.

Sturdy and resilient, Wisdom has flown over three million miles and survived several natural disasters. The avian community’s Mrs. Vassilyev, Wisdom has laid 40 eggs to date. That’s a lot considering most albatrosses tap out at 20!

A Laysan albatross flying through a blue sky near mountains.

The oldest living Laysan albatross was born in 1951 and has flown over 3,000,000 miles.

©Tory Kallman/Shutterstock.com

Oldest Living Vertebrate: Greenland Shark

The University of Copenhagen has been tracking a Greenland shark in the waters of the Arctic which is estimated to be somewhere between the ages of 272 and 512 years old, making it the oldest vertebrate on Earth.

Greenland sharks have very long lifespans, are slow swimmers, and love swimming at very deep depths. In fact, one had never been photographed until 1995, and it took another 18 years before video footage was captured of one. Greenland sharks are massive creatures, growing up to 21 feet long and weighing as much as 2,100 pounds.

These massive creatures have very few predictors. These animals aren’t hunted for their meat because this species of shark is poisonous to humans if consumed. It releases a neurotoxin that can be harmful. Untreated Greenland shark meat contains high levels of trimethylamine oxide (TMAO), which breaks down into the poisonous trimethylamine (TMA) compound during digestion.

The World's Oldest Greenland Shark

The Greenland shark can reach a maximum weight of over 2,000 pounds.

©Dotted Yeti/Shutterstock.com

Oldest Living Marine Animals: Bowhead Whales

Bowhead whales are gargantuan, live very long lives, and have massive triangle-shaped heads that pierce through Arctic ice-like its water.

We tend to view high metabolism as a plus, but bowhead whales likely think differently. Since they live in frigid waters and maintain low body temps, their metabolism is glacial. The result is longer lives and less tissue damage.

As a result, bowheads live well into their hundreds. According to researchers, the current record holder lived for 211 years. Today, scientists believe a 150-year-old whale is probably whizzing through northern waters.

Two bowhead whales swimming near the surface of the ocean.

The oldest bowhead whale lived for 211 years.

©Vladimir Chebanov/Shutterstock.com

You May Also Enjoy: 10 Toughest Animals on Earth

A Posthumous Homage to Ming the 507-Year-Old Clam

Though he’s no longer with us, we’d be remiss not to mention Ming, the quahog clam who lived to 507 years old.

Sadly, in 2006, marine biologists accidentally killed Ming by prying open his shell. For years, everyone thought he was 405, but a closer look revealed the truth: Ming was born in 1499, 260 years before humans discovered electricity!

A close up of several clams.

The oldest living clam was determined by biologists to be 507 years old.

©bimka/Shutterstock.com

And there it is our list of the oldest living animals on Earth.

Bonus: What is the Oldest Living Plant on Earth Today?

Aspen trees, part of the Pando Clone, grow near Fish Lake in Utah.  The Pando Clone is the heaviest living organism on earth.

Pando is the name of a large colony of quaking aspens believed to be the oldest plant on Earth.


Image: Reuben Jolley Photography, Shutterstock

©Reuben Jolley Photography/Shutterstock.com

As you saw from our list of the oldest living animals, there are several senior citizens among Earth’s creatures that deserve our honor and respect. Let’s not forget that there are ancient trees that have graced our world with beauty and oxygen for more years than the oldest animals have roamed. You may think that the giant Sequoia would be the oldest tree in the world – but that honor goes to a grove of quaking aspens in Utah’s Fishlake National Forest. Pando is a massive clonal colony that appears to be a grove of individual trees but has one shared root system. As one tree in the colony dies – another is born to take its place. Scientists believe that Pando is the oldest living plant in the world at over 80,000 years old.

Summary of the Oldest Living Animals on Earth Today

RankAnimalAge
1Ming the Clam507 years old (now deceased)
2Greenland Shark272-512 years old
4Jonathan the Tortoise188 years old
3Bowhead Whale150 years old
5Wisdom the Laysan Albatross71 years old
6Kane Tanaka the Oldest Human117 years old

Which Animal has the Shortest Lifespan?

Animals With The Shortest Lifespan

A small mayfly resting on a blade of grass. Mayflies are indicators of the pollution of the water, they can only survive in clean waters.

©Achkin/Shutterstock.com

The mayfly has the shortest lifespan of any other animal – with only a brief 24 hours to live. Their only priority during this one fateful day is to mate – they don’t even have mouths to enjoy eating. This strategy works to preserve the species, however, because the mayfly is the oldest flying insect species still alive. Hopefully, the adult mayfly has happy memories of its larvae stage – when it swam and ate for about a year.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © FOTOGRIN/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Rebecca is an experienced Professional Freelancer with nearly a decade of expertise in writing SEO Content, Digital Illustrations, and Graphic Design. When not engrossed in her creative endeavors, Rebecca dedicates her time to cycling and filming her nature adventures. When not focused on her passion for creating and crafting optimized materials, she harbors a deep fascination and love for cats, jumping spiders, and pet rats.

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