Oldest Living Animals on Earth Today

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: June 20, 2022
Image Credit FOTOGRIN/Shutterstock.com
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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.

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 are the oldest living animals on the planet today?

Oldest Living Animal: Jonathan the Giant Tortoise

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

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 beat 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.

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

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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.

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

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AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

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