Dominos Extra Dough 2019

Almost Immortal

Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

–Susan Ertz

Humans have come a long way in terms of longevity. In 1800, the average life expectancy in Europe was 33.3 years. In 2001, Europe’s average life expectancy had climbed to 76.8 years and in the Americas it was 73.2 years. In 2018, here in the USA, male life expectancy has reached 77 years and women’s have reached 81 years.

But what of the greater animal kingdom? Are there animals out there who can expect to live as many, or even more, years that humans?

Out in the wild most animals rarely reach their maximum possible age. Disease, predation, infant mortality, destruction of habitat, weather and competition for shelter and food play a large part in determining how long they may live. But under ideal conditions, some animals can reach some astounding ages:


6: Longfin Eel

Scientific name: Anguilla dieffenbachii

Description: New Zealand Longfin eel (Anguilla dieffenbachii) seen in a river at night in the Tararua Ranges
Original Upload Date: Date 9 June 2008
Source: Gusmonkeyboy
Author: Gusmonkeyboy

Growing only 0.393701-0.787402 of an inch per year, the freshwater longfin eels of Australia and New Zealand have a distinct sexual dimorphism between the sexes; the males grow up to 29 inches, while the females can reach as much as 61 inches and are generally longer lived. They have an average lifespan of 60 years, but one eel has been recorded as reaching 106. Scientists have discovered that their extremely slow growth rate is the secret to the longfin eel’s longevity.

100+ Years


5: Galapagos Giant Tortoise

Scientific name: Chelonoidis nigra

English: A Galapagos tortoise on the Island of Santa Cruz bathes in a pool
Date 25 December 2009

With an average lifespan of 100 plus years, the Galapagos giant tortoise is endemic to the Galapagos Islands. Harriet (c. 1830-June 2006), reputed to have been one of three tortoises taken by Charles Darwin, during his historic voyage in 1835, from the Galapagos Islands, died at approximately the age of 176 at the Australia Zoo, owned by the “Crocodile Hunter.” She missed out on the title of world’s oldest tortoise to a Madagascar radiated tortoise who died in 1965 at the age of 188.

170+ Years

4a: Bowhead Whale

Scientific name: Balaena mysticetus

bowhead-1 Kate Stafford edit
Date 16 April 2011, 22:14
Source bowhead-1 Kate Stafford edit
Author Bering Land Bridge National Preserve.

Second only to the blue whale in size, bowhead whales, also known as Arctic whales, have an average lifespan of over 100 years. Backed up by harpoon fragments found in their blubber, whose manufacture gives only a small window, dating whale’s ages is now based on the process of analyzing the amino acids built up on their eye lenses. Using this method, scientists have determined the oldest known bowhead whale to have died at the age of 211.

200+ Years

4b: Koi (fish)

Scientific name: Cyprinus carpio

Photo of a koi head close up, taken July 2001 by User:Stan Shebs
Two set of barbels are visible, both the large ones and a smaller pair higher up.

With an average lifespan of 25-30 years, Koi, or carp, are kept for decorative purposes in water gardens and ponds due to their varied colors and patterns. Despite their low, average lifespan, some can live to astounding ages. Hanaka (c. 1751-July 1977), meaning “flower girl” in Japanese, died at the age of 226. This means she was born before the founding of the United States.

200+ Years

3: Greenland Shark

Scientific name: Somniosus microcephalus

In the last couple minutes of the last dive of the field season we found the largest fish we have ever encountered with the ROV, a Greenland Shark.

Only reaching maturity at about 100 years of age, Greenland sharks, like longfin eels, are slow growers. Swimming through the cold depths of the North Atlantic, they average 0.393701 of an inch per year and can reach 16 feet in length. Using radiocarbon dating to determine age, researchers have estimated that one of the females, of the 28 sharks they were testing, was around 400 years old.

Up to 400 Years

2: Ocean Quahog

Scientific name: Arctica islandica

S. Rae Follow
Arctica islandica (Ocean Quahog)
Gullane bents, East Lothian, Scotland

Like trees, a clam’s age can be determined by the annual growth rings on their shells. Ocean quahogs have an average lifespan of over 100 years, but specimens have been calculated at over 400 years. One in particular, Hafrún (also known as Ming, c. 1499–2006), roughly translated as “the mystery of the ocean,” died at the age of 507. Dredged off the coast of Iceland, its shell was opened so researchers, “unaware” of its lofty age, could examine it.

500+ Years

1: Turritopsis Dohrnii (jellyfish)

Scientific name: Turritopsis dohrnii

Photo: Shane Anderson.
Printing resolution: 300 DPI.
Downloaded from
Leyend: We don’t often think of the open water as “habitat” but many species live all or part of their life in the open water. Planktonic jellyfish Medusae (Medusae) drift in the water column and move by contracting the muscles within the bell-like structure creating pulse-like movements. The tentacles contain harpoon-like stinging cells to capture small planktonic shrimp and crabs.

The turritopsis dohrnii jellyfish only misses out on true “immortal” designation because, like every other living creature, it is subject to predation. Able to “bypass death,” it can convert itself from its mature form to an immature polyp when injured or stressed. There is no limit to this ability, so aside from predation, this amazing jellyfish has a boundless possible lifespan.

Almost Immortal

The animal kingdom is filled with a complex diversity that offers up new wonders every day. Animals such as these, with their long life expectancies, are just a fraction of the many amazing things nature has to offer.


About Jenifer Chrisman

Jenifer joined the MWR Marketing team in 2011 as graphic designer. In 2014, she went back to her roots when she joined the Fort Gordon FYI Magazine team as a writer, along with her designer duties. As of 2015, she has created a series of briefs about the history, culture and traditions of the military called Culture.Mil, as well as writing various other pieces, including her favorite ... A Thin Line Of Many Colors.

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