CLOSE
Original image
ThinkStock

9 Animals That Can Live Longer Than You

Original image
ThinkStock

The average life expectancy in the United States these days is nearly 79 years. As animal species go, humans are pretty hearty, especially given all these fancy medicines we’ve developed. But we’re not the only ones who hope to live past 80 (or 90). Other birds and mammals and fish and microbes manage to live longer. Some a lot longer.

1. Giant tortoises

The Aldabra tortoise, found on a tiny atoll north of Madagascar, can easily live past 100 years, and it’s thought that the oldest in captivity died at age 250 (that’s the upper limit; other records point to an age of at least 150). Who knows how long the Aldabra might live, though. Accurate records of the species’ age haven’t been kept, partly because the tortoises being studied have outlived the scientists researching them.

2. The immortal jellyfish

Scientists discovered Turritopsis dohrnii back in 1883, but it wasn’t until more than a century had passed that they discovered it was technically capable of living forever. That’s right: When faced with stressors like starvation or injury, the jellyfish reverts to its youngest form. Its cells transform into other cells, and it transforms into a cyst. That blob then produces a bunch of baby jellyfish, or polyps, all of which are genetically identical to the original. This method of self-preservation has actually turned it into an annoying invasive species.

3. Ocean quahog

These large clams found in the North Atlantic look unremarkable. More people have probably tasted them than seen them, given that they’re a frequent chowder ingredient. But when their rings are analyzed, it becomes clear that quahogs are some of the longest-lived ocean dwellers. In fact, a clam nicknamed Ming harvested in 2006 turned out to be 507 years old. And given that Ming turned up in a random sample of 200 clams, its likely that many others are at least as old, if not older. And you may have eaten them.

4. Tuatara

Move aside, coelacanth. The tuatara, a reptile found in New Zealand, is also known as a living fossil. Its closest relatives are extinct, and it has a vestigial third eye on the top of its head. (Skin grows over it, but the “eye” can still detect light and dark.) They’re slow-growing, not maturing until the ages of 13-20. They can stop breathing for up to an hour, and they’re not slowed down by cold. Given all of this, one of the least remarkable things about tuataras is that they can live up to a century in the wild.

5. Parrots

With parrots, we skirt the edges of the human lifespan. Macaws, for example, can live some 60 years in the wild. But some have sailed past the 100-year mark, most notably Charlie, who was reportedly owned by Winston Churchill. Taught to spew obscenities against Hitler and the Nazis, Charlie was a fixture at a British garden center for years. As with giant tortoises, it can be difficult to substantiate birth dates for centenarian parrots—and researchers have cast doubt on Charlie’s provenance—so the exact details are murky.

6. Bowhead whale

The bowhead whale is second only in size to the blue whale—but it’s apparently No. 1 among mammals in terms of sheer lifespan. Scientists have discovered at least three of the whales are 135 to 172 years old, with a fourth clocking in at 211 years old. They figured this out by studying the creatures’ eye lenses, and by finding ivory and stone harpoon points buried in other whales. Those tips haven’t been used since the 1880s. These discoveries doubled the known lifespan for the creatures.

7. Koi

This beautiful, domesticated carp variety lives an average of 50 years. But depending on the quality of their care and genetic variables, koi have been known to live for more than a century. Hanako, a fish that died in 1977, was believed to be 226 years old. Scientists measured her age by examining the microscopic rings on her scales.

8. Flamingo

You’ll likely outlive most flamingos, but not all of them. In captivity, they usually live some 40 years, about 10 years longer than they survive in the wild. But Greater, a flamingo at the Adelaide Zoo in Australia, made it to age 83.The animal’s gender wasn’t known, but Greater managed to survive both World War II and a late-in-life attack from younger flamingos at the zoo. Sadly, complications from age led to the bird's demise.

9. Bacteria

Deep, deep in the ocean you can find some of the longest-lived creatures ever. These viruses, bacteria, and assorted fungi have such slow metabolisms that scientists hesitate to even call them "alive" in the conventional sense of the word (the term "zombie" came up). And yet some have likely existed for millions of years, only reproducing every 10 millennia.

All images courtesy of Thinkstock.

arrow
Animals
Elusive Butterfly Sighted in Scotland for the First Time in 133 Years

Conditions weren’t looking too promising for the white-letter hairstreak, an elusive butterfly that’s native to the UK. Threatened by habitat loss, the butterfly's numbers have dwindled by 96 percent since the 1970s, and the insect hasn’t even been spotted in Scotland since 1884. So you can imagine the surprise lepidopterists felt when a white-letter hairstreak was seen feeding in a field in Berwickshire, Scotland earlier in August, according to The Guardian.

A man named Iain Cowe noticed the butterfly and managed to capture it on camera. “It is not every day that something as special as this is found when out and about on a regular butterfly foray,” Cowe said in a statement provided by the UK's Butterfly Conservation. “It was a very ragged and worn individual found feeding on ragwort in the grassy edge of an arable field.”

The white-letter hairstreak is a small brown butterfly with a white “W”-shaped streak on the underside of its wings and a small orange spot on its hindwings. It’s not easily sighted, as it tends to spend most of its life feeding and breeding in treetops.

The butterfly’s preferred habitat is the elm tree, but an outbreak of Dutch elm disease—first noted the 1970s—forced the white-letter hairstreak to find new homes and food sources as millions of Britain's elm trees died. The threatened species has slowly spread north, and experts are now hopeful that Scotland could be a good home for the insect. (Dutch elm disease does exist in Scotland, but the nation also has a good amount of disease-resistant Wych elms.)

If a breeding colony is confirmed, the white-letter hairstreak will bump Scotland’s number of butterfly species that live and breed in the country up to 34. “We don’t have many butterfly species in Scotland so one more is very nice to have,” Paul Kirkland, director of Butterfly Conservation Scotland, said in a statement.

Prior to 1884, the only confirmed sighting of a white-letter hairstreak in Scotland was in 1859. However, the insect’s newfound presence in Scotland comes at a cost: The UK’s butterflies are moving north due to climate change, and the white-letter hairstreak’s arrival is “almost certainly due to the warming climate,” Kirkland said.

[h/t The Guardian]

Original image
iStock
arrow
Animals
Plagued with Rodents, Members of the UK Parliament Demand a Cat
Original image
iStock

Members of the United Kingdom’s Parliament want a cat, but not just for office cuddles: As The Telegraph reports, the Palace of Westminster—the meeting place of Parliament’s two houses, the House of Commons and the House of Lords—is overrun with vermin, and officials have had enough. They think an in-house feline would keep the rodents at bay and defray skyrocketing pest control costs.

Taxpayers in the UK recently had to bear the brunt of a $167,000 pest control bill after palace maintenance projects and office renovations disturbed mice and moths from their slumber. The bill—which was nearly one-third higher than the previous year’s—covered the cost of a full-time pest control technician and 1700 bait stations. That said, some Members of Parliament (MPs) think their problem could be solved the old-fashioned way: by deploying a talented mouser.

MP Penny Mordaunt tried taking matters into her own hands by bringing four cats—including her own pet kitty, Titania—to work. (“A great believer in credible deterrence, I’m applying the principle to the lower ministerial corridor mouse problem,” she tweeted.) This solution didn’t last long, however, as health and safety officials banned the cats from Parliament.

While cats aren’t allowed in Parliament, other government offices reportedly have in-house felines. And now, MPs—who are sick of mice getting into their food, running across desks, and scurrying around in the tearoom—are petitioning for the same luxury.

"This is so UNFAIR,” MP Stella Creasy said recently, according to The Telegraph. “When does Parliament get its own cats? We’ve got loads of mice (and some rats!) after all!" Plus, Creasy points out, a cat in Parliament is “YouTube gold in waiting!"

Animal charity Battersea Dogs & Cats Home wants to help, and says it’s been trying to convince Parliament to adopt a cat since 2014. "Battersea has over 130 years [experience] in re-homing rescue cats, and was the first choice for Downing Street, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Cabinet Office when they sought our mousers to help with their own rogue rodents,” charity head Lindsey Quinlan said in a statement quoted by The Telegraph. “We'd be more than happy to help the Houses of Parliament recruit their own chief mousers to eliminate their pest problem and restore order in the historic corridors of power."

As of now, only assistance and security dogs are allowed on palace premises—but considering that MPs spotted 217 mice alone in the first six months of 2017 alone, top brass may have to reconsider their rules and give elected officials purr-mission to get their own feline office companions.

[h/t The Telegraph]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios