Ming lived through the Spanish Armada, the World Wars and the Civil Rights movement. Though he isn’t as famous as these events, he was historic in his own right. So who is this mysterious fellow that lived for 507 years?
Ming is an ocean quahog (aka the species of clam in your delicious clam chowder soup) that was extracted from an Icelandic seabed in 2006 for analysis by scientists. Little did they know at the time that they killed the world's oldest-known individual animal.
Globally, the average human lifespan is 70 years, according to the World Health Organization. Ming seriously outlived us -- and he’s not the only animal to do so.
Other animal individuals -- like Cookie, a resident cockatoo at the Chicago Zoological park – can live for really long times (Cookie is 80). One koi fish, Hanako, lived to be 226 years old. And if you think getting old is hard on your body, try being this Layson albatross that hatched a chick at 62 years old last year.
Not every long-lived animal has been around since the time of Christopher Columbus, but take a look at these other animals that live for freakishly long times.
Previously believed to live for just seven to 15 years, biochemical and nuclear testing revealed that these spiny invertebrates can live for 200 years
. The older urchins seem to live along British Columbia's coast -- living around 100 years on average-- while red sea urchins around Southern California live for about half that time at 50 years
, according to the Aquarium of the Pacific.
Red sea urchins are the largest of the sea urchins. Though they grow very slowly at less than 0.004 inches per year, scientists think they grow their entire lives. They graze on kelp and seaweed, and use their spines and tube feet to pass it to their mouth.
(Photo by vagabondvince310/Flickr Creative Commons
Tuataras are the only surviving members from Rhynchocephalia
, an order of ancient reptiles that flourished before the dinosaurs 225 million years ago, according to the Saint Louis Zoo. These lizard-like reptiles can live anywhere from 60 to 100 years of age. Tuataras are very slow-growing: They breathe only once every seven seconds, and grow until they're about 35 years old
, according to New Zealand's Department of Conservation.
About 100,000 of these reptiles still exist today in New Zealand. They are the nation's largest reptiles, with the males reaching about three feet in length.
(Photo by Sid Mosdell/Flickr Creative Commons
Several of the oldest and largest marine animals hail from the order Cetacea, consisting of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Blue whales
, pictured here, can live for 80 to 90 years. Weighing in at 200 tons and stretching to 100 feet, they're one of the largest animals ever known to live on Earth, according to National Geographic. Other long-living whales include sperm whales, living around 70 years
, according to the National Wildlife Federation; humpback whales
, living up to about 80 years, according to NOAA, and fin whales
, living around 85 to 90 years, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
But the second-largest whale, the bowhead, far exceeds the lifespan of other whales. Old harpoon tips and ivory pieces found in whales' flesh tipped scientists to determine that these massive whales can live somewhere between 100 and 200 years, making bowhead whales
the longest-living mammal on Earth, according to BBC Nature.
Dating this elusive species is difficult -- they're rarely spotted because of their deep-diving behavior. In recent years, scientists have relied on earwax
, eye tissue
and counting teeth ring layers
in stranded whales to determine their age.
(Photo by National Marine Sanctuaries/Flickr Creative Commons
This cnidarian can supposedly avert death. In the mid-1990s, scientists discovered that these tiny jellyfish turn into a ball when they're nearing the end of their lives. But instead of dying, they revert back to their polyp stage -- and thus have become known as "the immortal jellyfish."
Whether these jellyfish are truly immortal remains a mystery
since only one scientific paper
describing these immortal jellies has been published, says Deep Sea News, and much more research is needed. A 2008 study revealed that these tiny jellies had travelled from the Mediterranean Sea, where they were first discovered, to waters off of Spain, Italy, Japan, Florida, Panama and other areas, likely via the ballast water
of cruise and cargo ships, according to National Geographic.
(Photo by Alamy)
Elephants have some of the greatest longevity of land mammals. Lifespan estimates of both Asian and African elephants
, pictured here, are about 70 years
, according to the University of Michigan's Animal Diversity Web and National Geographic.
Ages can be determined by height comparison to the matriarch, tusk length and measuring the weight of the eye lens. African elephants can be distinguished from their Asian elephant cousins because they are slightly larger and have ears shaped like the African continent
, while Asian elephant ears are rounder, according to National Geographic.
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Dr. James W. Orr/AFSC/NOAA
These are some of the longest-living fish on the planet, with one rougheye estimated to be 205 years old, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. They're found in the Pacific Ocean
, from Alaska to Southern California and from northern Japan into the Bering Sea, and inhabit the seafloor near caves, crevices and steeped slopes.
Their name is derived from the spines
found along the lower rim of their eyes, according to NOAA. They grow to about 32 inches in length.
(Photo by Dr. James W. Orr/AFSC/NOAA
The giant tortoises of the Galápagos Islands are the longest-living vertebrates with an average lifespan of over 100 years, though the oldest on record lived to be 152 years old. Galápagos giant Tortoises are the largest tortoises
, with some reaching five feet in length and exceeding 550 pounds, according to National Geographic.
Though disputed on how many subpopulations there are on the Galápagos Islands (different sources claim 11 to 15 are still living
), it's estimated that only about 15,000
of these endangered animals still exist.
(Photo by Scott Ableman/Flickr Creative Commons
These bivalves can live for at least 200 years
, according to NOAA. They bury themselves in substrate and grow slowly, not reproducing until age six and not reaching a harvestable size until 20 years old. Ocean quahogs are found in the eastern and western Atlantic as far south as Spain and North Carolina
Ming, an ocean quahog from Iceland, was found in 2006 and thought to be 402 years old. Further analysis revealed that this bivalve was a whopping 507 years old
when it died, making it the oldest-known living animal.
(Photo by Hans Hillewaert/CC-BY-SA-3.0/Wikimedia Commons
This sea turtle species is said to live for 80 to 100 years, and doesn't reach sexual maturity until it's 20 to 50 years old
, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Green sea turtles can be found in tropical and subtropical waters throughout the world's oceans, and the females will travel great distances from their feeding grounds to reach their preferred nesting grounds. Though adult green turtles are solely herbivores
, they can weigh up to 700 pounds and their carapace can stretch to five feet, according to National Geographic.
(Photo by LASZLO ILYES/Flickr Creative Commons
Coral reefs formed 240 million years ago
, but the coral reef ecosystems in place today likely started growing about 50 million years ago. Most coral reef ecosystems are between 5,000 and 10,000 years old, and the rate of grow varies from 0.2 inches to nearly four inches a year depending on the type of coral, according to NOAA. Barrier reefs and coral atolls can take 100,000 to 30,000,000 years
to fully form.
Being the largest biological structure on Earth, they're sometimes seen from outer space.
(Photo by ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images)