Tortoises may best be known for their incredible ability to outlive humans, but they aren’t the world’s longest-living animal. Not by a long shot.
According to Discovery News, the planet’s longest-living creature is actually a little-known clam called the ocean quahog.
One quahog dredged off the coast of Ireland in 2006 was found to be 507 years old and was promptly given the nickname “Ming the clam”.
So what are the secrets to living a long life if you’re an animal? It turns out that living in the ocean or on a remote island could help.
Here’s a list of the world’s top 10 longest living animals, based on the oldest known examples of each creature.
1. Ocean Quahog – 507 years
The ocean quahog is a species of edible clam and is native to the North Atlantic Ocean around the British and Irish coastline.
Ocean quahogs live to depths of around 500 metres and bury themselves in sand until they are almost entirely hidden.
While their exact lifespan is unknown, quahogs have been documented of living up to 507 years old, like Ming the clam, who was discovered near Ireland in 2006.
The clams take a long time to mature, and can take almost 50 years to reach market size.
2. Aldabra Giant Tortoise – 255 years
As its name suggests, the Aldabra Giant Tortoise is one of the largest in the world, and lives on Aldabra, a coral atoll off the coast of Seychelles in Africa.
The tortoise has an average weight of 250 kilos, and can live both alone or in a herd (or in a ‘creep’, to be exact).
At his death in 2006 at an Indian zoo, a giant tortoise named Adwaita reached the longest-ever lifespan of 255 years.
Jonathan, a giant tortoise who lives on the African island of St Helena is believed to now be the world’s oldest, aged 182.
3. Bowhead Whale – 211 years
The bowhead whale lives in mostly arctic waters and can grow up to 20 metres in length and weigh up to 75 tonnes.
Like the large blue whale, the bowhead whale eats mostly krill and small creatures through its baleen teeth.
The whale was previously thought to live to around 70 years until bowheads killed in the 1990s were found to have spear tips in their blubber dating back to the 1860s.
They are a food source for Inuits living in Alaska, and have bony skulls which they use to break through arctic ice.
4. Rougheye Rockfish – 205 years
The rougheye rockfish is the world’s longest living fish and is a deep-water dweller, normally found 150 to 450 metres below the surface.
A 2001 study found deep-water fish often lived longer, which could be related to physiological changes to adapt to their low temperature and low light environment.
The rockfish can weight up to 7 kilos and lives around the Japanese coast.
It feasts on shrimp, crabs and other fish, and doesn’t reproduce until later in life due to its slow maturity.
5. Red sea urchin – 200 years
Research by Oregon State University found red sea urchins often live beyond 100 years, and in some cases, as long as 200 years.
The small, spiked creatures also don’t age – they are just as capable of living to another year and reproducing at 100 years old as they are at 10 years old.
They live in shallow water and are eaten in Japan where their sex organs are considered a delicacy.
Studies have also found the red sea urchin grows very slowly over its entire lifespan, and takes 7 years to grow to a harvestable size.
6. Galapagos Tortoise – 177 years
The Galapagos tortoise is the oldest-living land dweller and lives on the remote Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador.
They are herbivores with extremely slow metabolisms and are known to nap up to 16 hours a day.
The Galapagos tortoise has an interesting relationship with the islands’ finch bird, which lands on the tortoise’s head and feasts on the itchy parasites which usually live on the reptile.
Naturalist Charles Darwin said the tortoises were “absolutely deaf” and said he was always amused when they went from being calm to shocked as he snuck up behind them.
7. Shortraker Rockfish – 157 years
The shortraker rockfish is in a similar family to the long-living rougheye rockfish, and is found in cold waters around Alaska in depths of around 400 metres.
The largest shortraker ever found weighed 28 kilos, was over a metre long, and was estimated to be between 90 to 115 years old.
Scientists said the fish, found in 2007, was pregnant, which indicates that shortraker rockfish are able to reproduce until late in life.
8. Lake Sturgeon – 152 years
Female lake sturgeons take up to 33 years to become sexually mature, and only reproduce once every four to nine years.
The fish is a river dweller, only found in the United States in places like Missisipi and Alabama.
Female lake sturgeons also live as much as three times longer than their male counterparts, with the life span for male lake sturgeons around 55 years, while females have life spans of 80 to 150 years.
It has a long body, like a torpedo, and uses its long snout to stir up sediment on river beds and lakes while feeding.
9. Orange Roughy – 149 years
Human consumption of the orange roughy in the 1990s almost saw the fish become extinct.
Dining on the fish is now strongly discouraged by environmental and conservation groups.
It is a slow-growing fish and late to mature, which means it is extremely susceptible to overfishing.
The orange roughy lives in deep water, between 180 to 1800 metres below the surface, and is found in waters from Iceland to Australia to South Africa.
10. Warty Oreo – 140 years
The warty oreo is a small grey fish that is found in depths of between 300 to 1600 metres.
They live in large schools in rough underwater terrain and feast mostly on shrimp and other fish.
Young warty oreos live closer to the surface in shallow water less than a kilometre in depth.
* Discovery News noted that some sea sponges may be contenders for this list, however data on their lifespans is not yet available. Discrepancies between this list and Discovery’s are due to the use of information from additional sources.