Top 10 Oldest Living Animals Throughout History
As they say, age is just a number, but in some instances, it’s an impressive figure that deserves some recognition. In the animal kingdom, beasts that survived upwards of a century without falling prey to predators have earned the praise of this installment, which tells the tales of the top ten oldest living animals throughout history.
If you think your parents are old, get a load of this ocean quahog! This edible clam, nicknamed Ming, was discovered in 2006 by a team of researchers in Iceland. During their expedition, they came across an Arctica islandica bivalve molluscs, an otherwise typical discovery of the region. What boosted this finding to Guinness Word Record status was its age. Initially, Ming was dated at around 405 years old, but later estimates, determined by growth rings around the shell of the ocean quahog, put it at around 507 years old. German animal physiologist and marine biologist Doris Abele believes the secret to longevity for Ming partially lies within its extremely slow metabolism.
Animals can live for quite a long time, only to be snatched from the comfort of their ecosystem by man. That’s the story of George, the 140-year-old lobster that was nabbed off the coast of Canada, where it seemed to exist with no issue. The 20-pound or roughly 9-kilogram crustacean was then sold to City Crab and Seafood restaurant in New York where, instead of becoming a feast for a king, was turned into a tourist attraction. The story of George the Lobster ends on a high note, however, as the restaurant decided to release him back into the wild off the coast of Maine.
The tuatara is a species of reptile endemic to regions within New Zealand, named for the pointed peaks on their backs. The otherwise ordinary looking lizard isn’t typically a fascinating specimen if you’re not into lizards, but Henry’s story certainly attracts attention. At around 118-years-old, Henry is the oldest known tuatara, who has lived out over 46 years of his life at the Southland Museum in New Zealand. Though Henry may live in captivity, his life is ever so exciting, with visits from the Prince of Wales himself, Prince Harry.
Winston Churchill may be long dead but he’s survived by an incredible member of society – the 116-year-old blue-and-gold macaw named Charlie. During much of Churchill’s political career as Prime Minister, the aged bird was by his side, and though she may know the secrets that the old leader held closest to him, her vocabulary has diminished to simple “Hellos” and “Goodbyes” at the Heathfield Nurseries in the United Kingdom. Sylvia Martin, the nursery manager, claims that the old bird is less talkative, having grown more aggressive and grumpy in her old age – probably not too dissimilar from her former owner.
J2 / Granny
For many years, the world’s oldest killer whale, affectionally known as Granny, was spotted and documented frequently by whale watchers in the Pacific Northwest. Granny, known to marine biologists as J2, was believed to be around 105 years old when, between October and December of 2016, she was said to have vanished. After months of no sightings, with the last recorded sighting being made on October 12th, 2016 by Ken Balcomb, director of the Center for Whale Research in San Juan Island, Washington, the elder whale was presumed dead. Granny was first documented in 1976, the notch in her dorsal fin and shape of the white patch on her back distinguishing her from other killer whales.
When an animal lives a lengthy life, it’s bound to have many stories surrounding it. The Asian elephant known as Lin Wang is one such creature, with his story starting at a difficult time in the world. During World War II, Lin Wang was used as a pack mule for Japanese supplies in Burma until 1943, when he was captured by the Chinese. His life didn’t change much as the Allies also employed him as a pack mule before sending him to Taiwan, where he aided in training troops before being retired to the Taipei Zoo in 1954. For 49 years, the former military elephant entertained families until his death in 2003 at the age of 86.
Cookie may not have been the oldest bird to have lived, but he definitely was the oldest recorded cockatoo. In August of 2016, the Major Mitchell’s cockatoo was euthanized in response to his declining health. Back in 1934, Australia’s Taronga Zoo transplanted the then-one-year-old bird to the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. For 82 years, the pink and white bird entertained guests until his sudden decline in health in 2016, which included suffering from arthritis, cataracts, and osteoporosis. Not only was Cookie the oldest cockatoo, he was also the last surviving animal from the zoo’s original collection.
From 1933 to 2014, the Adelaide Zoo in Australia housed quite the striking and mysterious creature. Greater, the name given to an otherwise normal flamingo, was shrouded in mystery. There was no clear record of where the flamingo came from, though Cairo or the Hamburg Zoo remain viable options, and nobody at Adelaide seemed to know the animal’s sex. What was known about the creature is that, at its time of death in 2014, it was at least 83 years old. A year before Greater’s death, the flamingo started suffering deteriorating health and was put on anti-inflammatory pain medication for comfort. Surprisingly, Greater survived the winter but took another unfortunate turn, leading to its eventual euthanasia.
In 2016, the Belgrade Zoo in Serbia made quite a boastful claim. In its residence is an American alligator known as Muja. While it’s undeniably the oldest animal in the establishment, the zoo went even further to claim that he is the world’s oldest American alligator in captivity. In 1937, one year after the zoo opened its doors, the alligator was brought in from Germany, already fully grown. Muja’s old age is incredible on its own, especially for an animal in captivity, but looking at the history of Serbia and Belgrade, it’s an even greater miracle the alligator lived this long. From 1941 to 1944, the region of Belgrade was under heavy bombardment which nearly destroyed the entirety of the zoo, killing many of the animals in captivity. According to the zoo, the 80-plus-year-old alligator was the only survivor from that time period.
For 17 years, Thaao, an Andean condor, lived the life of Riley at the Beardsley Zoo in Connecticut after being transported from the Pittsburgh Zoo. The aged condor was said to be protective of his territory and was known for his attitude, but that didn’t soften the blow when, just before his 81st birthday, he passed away. The 80-year-old condor died of natural causes, such as deteriorating lungs, heart, and kidneys, and his remains have been donated to assist in advancing research on condors.