The Top Nine Animals With The Shortest Lifespan

Written by Rebecca Bales
Updated: May 9, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Many animals on this list are fish, reptiles, and rodents.
  • Some of the animals on this list are insects and only live for 24 hours.
  • The worker bee has one of the shortest lifespans on our list of the top 9 animals with the shortest lifespan.
The mayfly has the shortest lifespan among our list of animals.

The lifespan of an animal depends on its habitat, size, food sources, and its defensive capabilities along with other factors. The insects on this list progress through a life cycle that includes several stages. In some cases, one stage of an insect’s life cycle is much longer than another.

A small rodent on this list is considered a pest and at risk of being killed wherever it makes its home. It also has a lot of natural predators! A reptile listed here has a natural life cycle it moves through to keep its population thriving in Madagascar.

Read on to discover the specific facts connected to each of these nine animals categorized as having the shortest lifespan.

#9 Mosquitofish: 2 to 3 years

Animals With The Shortest Lifespan
Female Mosquitofish can consume as much as 150% of their own body weight in mosquito larvae in one day.


Mosquitofish are found in areas of the Mississippi River and in the Gulf of Mexico. This fish consumes a large number of mosquito larvae. Female mosquitofish grow to 2.8 inches in length and males reach a length of 1.6 inches. The lifespan of these small fish only goes up to 2 to 3 years.

Their size makes them easy prey for larger fish in their habitats such as catfish, bluegill, and bass. They’re also eaten by turtles, snakes, and other animals that live in the water.

Despite having a short lifespan, mosquitofish are plentiful. Unlike other fish, mosquitofish give live birth to their young. A female mosquitofish can have as many as 60 babies.

#8 Common Mouse: 12 to 18 months

Animals With the Shortest Lifespan
Two Harvest mice sitting on a branch. Mice can chew through anything softer than their teeth.

©colin robert varndell/

At three or four inches long, the common mouse is adaptable, living in many types of environments. They can live in homes, on farms, in city buildings, or in the woods. This small rodent is on a list of animals with the shortest lifespan because it only lives up to three years.

Not surprisingly, this rodent has numerous predators including cats, snakes, foxes, and owls, among others. In addition to that, it has a short lifespan because it’s considered a pest. They can chew electrical wiring, tear into items of food and leave messes of small feces behind in a home. Mice are killed by traps and poison set out by homeowners, building managers, etc.

Despite these circumstances, the common mouse population remains strong. Common mice become sexually mature at just 30 days old. A female mouse can have as many as ten litters of four to six babies in just one year.

To read more about the common mouse look here.

#7 Labord’s Chameleon: 4 to 5 months

Animals With The Shortest Lifespan
Labord’s chameleon has the shortest lifespan of all land vertebrates. They grow extremely rapidly, reach sexual maturity, breed, and then die.


Labord’s chameleon is named after a French explorer named Jean Laborde. He was the one who first spotted these reptiles in their forest habitat in Madagascar. This colorful chameleon is hard to overlook. Males have bright green skin and females are green with a pattern of blue, orange, and purple spots. It has a life cycle of just one year.

The life cycle begins when Labord’s chameleons are born in the month of November. The young reach sexual maturity at the end of January or February. These chameleons breed, and their young are born, in November. The older adult Labord’s chameleons in the population die at the end of the year.

To discover more on chameleons, travel to this page.

#6 Worker Bee: 30 to 60 days

Animals With The Shortest Lifespan
A bee sitting on a beautiful colored flower. The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.

© Toelle

If any bee can be described as busy; this is the right one. A young worker bee has lots of jobs. It feeds the larvae of bees in the hive, processes nectar, and makes honey. As a worker bee gets older it has to get water from the area and bring it back to cool the hive.

In short, worker bees spend their brief lifespan completing tasks to help a hive and its queen to survive. One of the most interesting things about a worker bee is its lifespan varies according to the season.

A worker bee that is growing and active in the summer has a lifecycle that ends after about 6 weeks or 30 to 60 days. Some might say that worker bees active in the summer end up working themselves to death. Alternatively, a worker bee active in the winter months can live for six to eight months.

This is because less effort is required of this worker bee in the wintertime and it’s able to store fat in its body for nourishment. They are sometimes called winter bees. In addition, worker bees are essential at this time of the year to keep the queen warm in the hive.

To read more about bees visit this page.

#5 Dragonfly: 7 – 56 days

Animals With The Shortest Lifespan
A Dragonfly on the leaf. Dragonflies can capture their prey in mid-air.


Have you ever seen a dragonfly hovering around the cattails of a lake or pond? They are colorful insects and very interesting to watch. They are on this list of animals with the shortest lifespan because an adult dragonfly lives just 7 – 56 days. However, to get the complete picture of a dragonfly’s life, you have to look at the earlier stages of its life cycle.

During the stages of this flying insect’s life cycle, it transforms from egg to nymph to adult dragonfly. Once the eggs are laid in the water, it takes about a week for them to hatch. Young dragonflies or nymphs emerge from the eggs and stay in the water.

Once it comes out of the water and molts into an adult dragonfly, it lives about 7 – 56 days.

Visit here for more information on dragonflies.

#4 Housefly: 28 days

Animals With The Shortest Lifespan
The housefly has spread all over the world as a commensal of humans. It is the most common fly species found in houses.


Houseflies live wherever humans do. Why? Because they’re attracted to the sights and smells of the foods that humans eat. These flies may land on a filled garbage dumpster one moment and land on a sandwich at a picnic the next!

They thrive in various weather conditions and live on every continent. But the lifespan of an adult housefly is very short. They live just one to two months.

The life cycle of a housefly includes the egg, larva, pupa, and adult stages. The eggs of a housefly hatch in less than 24 hours. The larva stage lasts from five to fourteen days.

The pupal stage goes from three to ten days. So, each of the stages of this fly’s life cycle is short in duration. But don’t worry about a shortage of houseflies! Every female housefly can lay as many as 500 eggs at one time.

To learn more about the housefly, visit this page.

#3 Drone Ant: Three Weeks

Animals With The Shortest Lifespan
Winged black garden ant before swarming with queen on a blade of grass.


A drone ant doesn’t look like the usual ant you may see on a sidewalk. It has wings and a large body similar to a wasp. However, it is an ant with a very important role in the life of its colony.

All drone ants are male. This ant’s purpose is to breed in order to ensure its colony’s population continues to flourish. In fact, it’s known as a reproductive ant. The life cycle of this ant starts and ends in just 1-2 days.

To learn more about the drone ant, read here.

#2 Fruit Fly: 40 to 50 days

Animals With The Shortest Lifespan
In most cases, fruit flies should be considered beneficial insects. The decaying matter they eat might otherwise turn into a source of a fungal or bacterial infection or attract more undesirable pests, such as mice or rats.

©Jordan Lye/

Fruit flies are very small at just one-eighth of an inch long. Their red eyes make them a little easier to identify when comparing them with gnats and other flies.

These tiny flies are attracted to rotting fruit. Not surprisingly, they show up in kitchens in homes around the time people bring in their vegetables and fruits from the backyard garden. The life cycle of a fruit fly lasts just 14 days!

A female fruit fly can lay anywhere from 500 to 2,000 eggs in a single lifetime! Which is only 2 weeks! The eggs hatch into larvae in as little as 12 hours. Each egg takes about 10 to 14 days to mature into an adult fruit fly. Their entire fruit life existence including egg life is about 40 to 50 days.

Fruit flies serve as a food source for many different types of animals including frogs, spiders, toads, and fish among others. Though they can be a pest when buzzing around a bowl of fruit, they have an essential role to play in the ecosystem.

Check out more on fruit flies right here.

#1 Mayfly: Twenty-Four Hours

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.


The mayfly is a small flying insect that lives around lakes, ponds, and streams in North America. It belongs to the order Ephemeroptera.

The fact that it belongs to this order says a lot about why this insect is at the top of the shortest lifespan list. The word Ephemeroptera is Greek and means, ‘short-lived.’

The life cycle of a mayfly starts in egg form. The eggs are laid in the water where they hatch shortly thereafter. Mayfly nymphs emerge from the eggs and remain in the water.

In fact, depending on their species, some mayfly nymphs stay in the water for months while others remain there for years. Eventually, the mayfly nymph climbs out of the water, molts, and becomes an adult mayfly. Adult mayflies live less than 24 hours.

Check out more on the fascinating mayfly right here.

Summary of the Top Nine Animals With The Shortest Lifespan

1Mayfly24 hours (Females 5 minutes)
2Fruit Fly40 to 50 days
3Drone Ant3 Weeks
4Housefly28 days
5Dragonfly7 – 56 days
6Worker Bee30 to 60 days
7Labord’s Chameleon4 to 5 months
8Common Mouse12 to 18 months
9Mosquitofish2 to 3 years

Animals with the Shortest Lifespans vs Longest Lifespans

The World's Oldest Greenland Shark
The oldest Greenland shark has been alive for 272-512 years.

©Dotted Yeti/

Now that we’ve explored animals that live very short lives, has it caused you to wonder which animals live very long lives? Below is a list of animals that have been recorded as living the longest of any on Earth. For more details check out: The Longest Living Animals: From 188 years to Immortal!

  1. The Oldest Sea Sponges – 11,000 years old
  2. The Oldest Corals – 5,000 years old
  3. The Oldest Greenland Shark – 272-512 years old
  4. Ming the Quahog Clam – 507 years old
  5. Bowhead Whales – 200-268 years old
  6. Deepwater Rougheye Rockfish – 205 years old
  7. Jonathan the Tortoise – 188 years old
  8. George the Lobster – 140 years old
  9. Grandma” Big Mouth Buffalo Fish (Freshwater) – 112 years old

The Featured Image

Animals With The Shortest Lifespan
Animals With The Shortest Lifespan

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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 alongside her supportive partner. 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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