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6 Amazing Animals That Practically Lived Forever

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Here are six legendary animals that lived a lot longer than most pets.

1. ADWAITA THE TORTOISE (1750-2006)

Even with the long life expectancy of giant tortoises, an Aldabra Giant Tortoise named Adwaita blows all others away with a life lasting around 255 years. Estimates put his birth date around 1750, making him an entire generation older than the United States of America.

The tortoise was originally owned by a man named General Robert Clive, an important member of the East India Company, who got addicted to opium and killed himself in 1774. Barely a toddler at that time, Adwaita bummed around for a bit before eventually being transferred to an Indian zoo in 1875, where he spent the rest of his life eating and...that's pretty much it. After his death in 2006, carbon dating on his shell confirmed his age, making him quite possibly the oldest living creature ever, and almost certainly the oldest living vertebrate.

2. LIN WANG THE ELEPHANT (1917-2003)

The average lifespan for an elephant can be anything from 50-70 years, but the oldest elephant ever was named Lin Wang, who died in a Taiwanese zoo at the ripe old age of 86. But he managed to fit a whole lot of awesome into his life before then.

During World War II, the young pachyderm was recruited to move supplies for the Japanese army before being captured by the Chinese along with a dozen other elephants. At the end of the war, Lin Wang managed to survive the trek back to China from Burma, which was so difficult that it killed six of the other elephants. For the next few years, he was used to build monuments and joined a circus.

When China fell to the Communists in 1949, many people fled to Taiwan, and they brought Lin Wang along with them; within two years he was the only elephant out of the original 13 captured during the war that was still alive. Once safely in Taiwan he was finally placed in a zoo to live out his retirement in peace.

As he grew older, Lin Wang became famous and received the absolute devotion of the Taiwanese. Starting in 1983, his birthday was celebrated every year. Even his transfer from one zoo to another brought thousands of people out to watch. When he finally died in 2003, tens of thousands of people left cards and flowers outside the zoo, including the then President of Taiwan.

3. BIG BERTHA THE COW (1944-1993)

While most cows consider 25 years to be extremely old age, Big Bertha was born while World War II was still raging and died after most of the people reading this were born. In between, she managed to fit in a lot more excitement than a normal cow. Besides pushing out 39 children, for which she was awarded a Guinness World Record for most calves from one cow, she also managed to help raise $75,000 for cancer by making celebrity appearances at cattle fairs.

Being a true Irish lass, Bertha regularly led her local St. Patrick's Day parade, but since the noise and all the people were a bit much for her, her owner always calmed her nerves by feeding her whiskey beforehand.

Bertha was eventually awarded her second Guinness honor for Oldest Ever Cow. When she died, the locals held a wake for her in her favorite pub, which was "packed to suffocation" with people toasting her memory. If you ever want to go see her, her stuffed body is on display at a farm in Ireland.

4. CHARLIE THE MACAW (1899(?)-PRESENT)

Charlie is a crotchety old blue macaw that may have already lived through three centuries—a lot longer than the average 50 year life span of normal macaws. Charlie's owner claims the bird was born the very end of the 19th century and that the bird was a favorite pet of Winston Churchill’s, who supposedly acquired Charlie in 1937 after the macaw had already managed to outlive two previous owners. While the Churchill claim is hotly debated, what is certain is that whoever did own Charlie during World War II taught him to say some very dirty phrases, mostly about Hitler and the Nazis.

His speech is so vulgar that his current owner, who says he purchased Charlie from the Churchill estate after Winston died in 1965, was forced to keep him instead of selling him in his pet shop as he had originally intended.

5. TISH THE GOLDFISH (1956-1999)

Remember those fair games where you could win a goldfish? These are an important part of childhood, because they teach kids about the briefness of life, when the fish inevitably dies 3 days later. If you are lucky it might live a year or two. That's probably what Mr. and Mrs. Hand where expecting when they let their son Peter try to win a pair of fish in 1956. Little did they know they would be taking care of one of those fish into their 70s.

After a few suicide attempts in his youth, Tish settled down with his bowl mate Tosh. That carnival worker must have been feeding all of his fish something pretty amazing, because Tosh didn’t expire until 1975. Normally that would be pretty impressive for a goldfish if his friend Tish hadn’t made lasting 19 years look pathetic, by living until the ripe old age of 43.

A year before he died, Tish was awarded the title of Oldest Goldfish by the Guinness Book of World Records.

6. MATILDA THE CHICKEN (1990-2006)

Keith and Donna Barton bought Matilda for $10 at a fair in 1990. Instead of putting her in a chicken coop or eating her or any of those normal things you expect people to do with chickens, they put Matilda to work as a part of their magic act.

They probably expected to replace their poultry assistant a lot sooner than they did, though; while most chickens only live 7-8 years, Matilda was still kicking after 15. She never laid a single egg in all that time, an abnormality that some chicken experts think may have directly contributed to her long life.

In 2001, Matilda became the first chicken to place in the Guinness Book of World Records as "World's Oldest Living Chicken." This led to the second horrible thing her owners put her through: a spot on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

In her later years, Matilda used her celebrity for good, attending many charity functions. She died in 2006.

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20 Black-and-White Facts About Penguins
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To celebrate World Penguin Day (which is today, April 25), here are a few fun facts about these adorable tuxedoed birds.

1. All 17 species of penguins are found exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere.

2. Emperor Penguins are the tallest species, standing nearly 4 feet tall. The smallest is the Little Blue Penguin, which is only about 16 inches.

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3. The fastest species is the Gentoo Penguin, which can reach swimming speeds up to 22 mph.

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4. A penguin's striking coloring is a matter of camouflage; from above, its black back blends into the murky depths of the ocean. From below, its white belly is hidden against the bright surface.

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5. Fossils place the earliest penguin relative at some 60 million years ago, meaning an ancestor of the birds we see today survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.

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6. Penguins ingest a lot of seawater while hunting for fish, but a special gland behind their eyes—the supraorbital gland—filters out the saltwater from their blood stream. Penguins excrete it through their beaks, or by sneezing.

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7. Unlike most birds—which lose and replace a few feathers at a time—penguins molt all at once, spending two or three weeks land-bound as they undergo what is called the catastrophic molt.

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8. All but two species of penguins breed in large colonies of up to a thousand birds.

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9. It varies by species, but many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season.

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10. Similarly, most species are also loyal to their exact nesting site, often returning to the same rookery in which they were born.

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11. Some species create nests for their eggs out of pebbles and loose feathers. Emperor Penguins are an exception: They incubate a single egg each breeding season on the top of their feet. Under a loose fold of skin is a featherless area with a concentration of blood vessels that keeps the egg warm.

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12. In some species, it is the male penguin which incubates the eggs while females leave to hunt for weeks at a time. Because of this, pudgy males—with enough fat storage to survive weeks without eating—are most desirable.

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13. Penguin parents—both male and female—care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt for food on their own.

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14. If a female Emperor Penguin's baby dies, she will often "kidnap" an unrelated chick.

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15. Despite their lack of visible ears, penguins have excellent hearing and rely on distinct calls to identify their mates when returning to the crowded breeding grounds.

16. The first published account of penguins comes from Antonio Pigafetta, who was aboard Ferdinand Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe in 1520. They spotted the animals near what was probably Punta Tombo in Argentina. (He called them "strange geese.")

17. An earlier, anonymous diary entry from Vasco da Gama's 1497 voyage around the Cape of Good Hope makes mention of flightless birds as large as ducks.

18. Because they aren't used to danger from animals on solid ground, wild penguins exhibit no particular fear of human tourists.

19. Unlike most sea mammals—which rely on blubber to stay warm—penguins survive because their feathers trap a layer of warm air next to the skin that serves as insulation, especially when they start generating muscular heat by swimming around.

20. In the 16th century, the word penguin actually referred to great auks (scientific name: Pinguinus impennis), a now-extinct species that inhabited the seas around eastern Canada. When explorers traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, they saw black and white birds that resembled auks, and called them penguins.

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6 Myths About Animals, Debunked
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It’s easy to think we understand animals: They’re present in every part of our culture, from the movies we watch to the clichés we use. But the way a species functions in the wild is often worlds apart from a stereotype or cartoon. This gulf between misconceptions and reality is the theme of Lucy Cooke’s new book, The Truth About Animals.

"We have a habit of viewing the animal kingdom through the prism of our own existence, and that trips us up and obscures the truth,” Cooke, a zoologist and founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society, tells Mental Floss. “I think it's time we rebrand the animal kingdom according to facts and not sentimentality.”

As Cooke examines in her book, the real world is one in which pandas are virile lovers and sloths are master survivalists. These are just a few of the myths that were debunked in The Truth About Animals.

1. PANDAS HAVE LOW SEX DRIVES.

Pandas have long been blamed for their own precarious position in the animal kingdom. The species is in danger, some people claim, because pandas are reluctant to or just plain bad at copulating. If only they would get off their furry behinds and get it on, there would be more of them.

In The Truth About Animals, Cooke debunks this modern myth. Pandas have been living in the wild for 18 million years—long before humans swooped in to act as their savior—and that wouldn’t be the case without healthy sex habits. It’s true that pandas are difficult to breed in captivity, and the several failed attempts of zoos to produce a baby panda throughout the 20th century is likely what led to this stereotype. But the bears are much more responsive to members of the opposite sex in the wild. The female chooses who she mates with, moaning from high in a bamboo tree while several males on the ground compete for her attention. Once the bears have paired off, they can have sex over 40 times in one afternoon.

2. SLOTHS ARE LAZY.

Cooke was inspired to write her book by sloths, which she describes to Mental Floss as “highly successful, highly evolved” creatures. Not everyone agrees: More than perhaps any other animal, sloths have become synonymous with laziness and sluggishness, and today they’re held up as an example of evolutionary failure.

The reality is that sloths are much more impressive than their appearance suggests. They’ve been around since 64 million years ago—earlier than wooly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers—and they have their slow and steady nature to thank for their success. Sloths have a remarkably slow digestive system and a low-calorie diet, so they expend as little energy as possible, not out of laziness, but out of survival instinct. A sloth is awake for more than half the day, and when necessary it can scramble up a tree at speeds approaching 1 mph. It spends most of its day in a still, seemingly trancelike state, but it isn’t wasting its potential: It’s conserving energy so it can maintain its dominant spot in the evolutionary tree.

3. PENGUINS ARE LOYAL LOVERS.

Emperor penguins, the most famous of the bird group, are known for splitting parenting duties between mated pairs, with the father incubating the egg while the mother gathers food for her family. This has led some to praise penguins as the reflection of ideal, moral family dynamics in the animal kingdom, but these people should probably find a different analog. Though the parents of any given chick may raise their offspring together, penguins aren’t monogamous: 85 percent of emperor penguins find a new partner from one breeding season to the next. Penguins are also some of the only animals known to exchange goods for sex. Adélie penguins need rocks to build up their nests during warmer months when meltwater threatens their eggs. With no parenting duties to distract them, bachelor penguins end up collecting more stones than they need, so some females will sometimes trade a one-off sex session for one of their pebbles.

4. VULTURES STALK DYING PREY.

Watch enough survival movies and you’re bound to see a shot of a hungry vulture trailing behind the starving protagonist, waiting for them to lie down and die. The myth that vultures stalk their prey while it’s still alive and have the power to predict death is a persistent one, but that doesn’t make it accurate. The scavengers have no interest in living animals and will only seek out meat from dead and decaying corpses. Rather than reaper-like premonitions of mortality, turkey vultures and greater and lesser yellow-headed vultures use their noses to locate their meals. They join kiwis and kakapos on the small list of birds with highly-developed olfactory glands. Without a strong sense of smell, other New World vultures and all Old World vultures primarily rely on sight to find food. Some New World vultures like black vultures have adopted a different strategy: They'll follow turkey vultures to their prey, taking advantage of their sensitive noses.

5. ALL BATS ARE RABID BLOOD-SUCKERS.

Bats may be the animals most closely associated with the horror genre. They crave blood, so the myth goes, and though a bat latched onto your neck won’t be able to suck you dry, it will likely infect you with a nasty case of rabies.

According to Cooke, there are many problems with the statement above. Bats are poor stand-ins for their fictional vampire counterparts; only three species of bats drink blood—the common vampire bat, the hairy-legged vampire bat, and the white-winged vampire bat—while most prefer fruit or insects. After climbing onto its prey, the vampire bat locates where the blood is flowing with the heat sensor on its nose, and then, using its sharp front teeth like shears, it cuts away any hair that might be blocking the skin. Rather than biting down and sucking like Dracula, the bat creates a small incision and laps up blood from the open wound. They can recognize an individual animal's breathing patterns and return to feed on it the following night, taking advantage of the reliable blood source.

Bats are rarely rabid, with just .05 percent of them carrying the disease—less than dogs or raccoons. The image of a bat getting tangled in your hair also has no basis in reality: Their sophisticated echolocation system signals them to turn long before they have a chance to collide with your head.

6. FEMALE HYENAS HAVE PENISES.

Hyena genitalia has been baffling scientists for centuries. Member of both sexes appear to have a penis, while in females there’s no external vagina to be found. Scientists originally thought that hyenas must be hermaphrodites, but the true explanation is even more unusual. Though it’s often referred to as a pseudo-penis, female hyena genitalia doesn’t produce sperm, technically making it a nearly 8-inch-long clitoris. This appendage is also saddled with all the same duties as a conventional female organ, including giving birth to hyena pups.

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