Senior Citizens of the Sea

Humans can live a long time. Since beating that old infant mortality rate back to a reasonable number, we have seen our lifespans increase almost exponentially. While we’ve done a good job of driving those age limits up, we are still a ways off from being the most long-lived species on the planet. Did you know that there are some sea creatures that can live over a hundred years? How about over 500? And there are even some sea animals that scientists believe can never die (that is if not eaten by a predator). Strange as it may seem, there are lots of senior citizens of the sea.


World’s oldest killer whale, who swam the oceans before the Titanic sank, dies at the age of 105

Simon Pidcock

In 1971, scientists came across Granny, a Southern Resident Killer Whale. At that time she was already the ripe old age of 60. Since then, researchers have been eagerly watching and studying her. She outlived her children, and was born one year before the Titanic steamed off on its fateful maiden voyage. In October of 2016, researchers saw her for the last time. Since then she has gone missing and is presumed dead.


Nellie, 61, World’s Oldest Dolphin in Captivity, Dies at Marineland’s Dolphin Adventure

This story is a melancholy reminder of the tragedy of captivity. Nellie was an ambassador for her species. She was beloved and revered. She was also a prisoner for the entire 61 years of her life. Sadly, she was born in a tank and she died in one, just a few miles from the ocean she never got to experience. The silver lining of the story is that Nellie showed us that dolphins can live long lives. No doubt they can live even longer than 61 years in the wild.


400-year-old Greenland shark might be oldest vertebrate on Earth

When I first read this headline, I was  dubious. 400 years? A shark can live 400 years? However, upon further review, it certainly appears as if this is the truth. Greenland sharks live in the deep waters of the Arctic and North Atlantic Oceans, and they can grow up to seven meters in length. But that’s not the most intriguing aspect of these big fellas. By carbon-14 dating Greenland shark eye lenses, scientists have determined that these big fish can live centuries. 3 to 5 centuries more specifically.


New record: World’s oldest animal is 507 years old

Not to be outdone by the Greenland shark is a small mollusk with a penchant for permanence. In 1499, only a few years after Columbus visited America, an unassuming ocean quahog was born in Iceland. Over 500 years later, a team of scientists found it. After a couple of rounds of testing, the researchers discovered that the mollusk was a half a millennia old. Before this, it was thought that mollusks didn’t live much past 100 years. Now we know. To think, you may have at one time eaten a 500 year old clam.


Immortal Jellyfish

Peter Schuchert/The Hydrozoa Directory

Now for the stuff of science fiction and fantasy. But this is no fiction. Turritopsis dohrnii. Remember that name. Some day we may all be having treatments for youthfulness and it all may be thanks to the Turritopsis dohrnii. Turns out the secret to long life isn’t just about living a long time, it’s about staying young. That’s what the Turritopsis dohrnii does. When it seems to have lived to the point to where it should die, the Turritopsis dohrnii instead reverts back to its juvenile state, thereby restarting the aging process all over again.


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