One thing we can all agree on is that death is inevitable (popularized by the millennial saying "YOLO"). However, this beloved millennial proverb might be a little less meaningful to a creature that can live for decades, centuries, or perhaps even indefinitely! If beating death at its own game is your biggest goal in life, you might wish to be reincarnated into one of these incredible animals in your next lifetime.
It's no secret that some of the smallest creatures inhabiting the Earth also happen to have the shortest life expectancies (think insects). However, one species of bat has scientists stumped in regard to its incredible lifespan. Brandt's bat, weighing in at less than 10 grams, can be found hanging out throughout Europe and Asia while enjoying a fantastically long life of about 40 years. This may not seem like a long time considering it's only about half of the life expectancy of you or me, but if we had the same life expectancy relative to size that this bat has? Well, we might live to be 160 years old. The extreme disparity between its size and life span has lead to an extensive amount of genetic research being conducted about this bat with a wonderfully long life.
At the opposite side of the size-to-lifespan spectrum lies the African elephant. This animal definitely overachieves by not only maintaining a lifespan comparable to humans at about 70 years, but also holds the record for the largest land mammal in existence, weighing in at up to seven tons. Unfortunately, this massive and majestic beast often falls short of their maximum life expectancy as demand for their ivory tusks leads to poaching. At the current rate, this animal might be removed from our list of incredible life expectancies and added to one of extinction before the course of our lifetimes is over.
While tortoises in general live a decently long life at about 70 or 80 years, the Aldabra giant tortoise enjoys an average lifespan of 150 years! The Aldabra giant tortoise is native to the Aldabra Islands near the coasts of Madagascar where they are known to knock over trees in order to munch on leaves. This party animal is one of the more social tortoises and is also incredibly intelligent, as they learn the names of their keepers quickly when domesticated.
Red Sea urchins begin the progression of our list into the down under. It was originally thought that these sea-faring porcupine look-alikes only lived to be about seven or ten years old. Recent studies, however, have discovered Red Sea urchins living off the coast of California to reach 50, while some near Canada are estimated to be upwards of 200! Scientists often estimate the age of an urchin based on its size, as urchins continue to grow (very slowly) throughout the duration of their lives.
Tube worms, kind of like the socks popularized in 1970's, have that vintage charm—except they're more likely to have been around since the 1770's. It's these incredibly long-living worms that introduced the idea that creatures could live with no sunlight. Tube worms survive thanks to a symbiotic bacteria that transform carbon dioxide into organic carbon so the worm can survive in return for a nice place to live. Those cool bacteria keeping deep-sea tube worms from pushing up daisies for up to 250 years, earning this sea-floor sock a spot on our list of the longest-living animals at #6.
The clams you might find in your New England clam chowder? They also could be the same clams you'd find in the ocean that have been hanging out there for hundreds of years. Ocean quahogs are actually some of the most sustainable sea creatures to fish and have an ample population. One outstanding quahog (affectionately named Ming) avoided being caught until 2006 and lived to be an amazing 507 years old! Quahogs earn a new ring on their shell for every year of age, similar to the way a tree earns a new ring on the inside of its trunk. Ming's age was initially misjudged to be only 400 years old because so many of the growth rings had become compressed with age. Today, Ming exists as a testament to how long an animal can flourish without human intervention.
The Greenland shark is like the sloth of the sea world. They swim at a relaxed, unhurriedly slow pace, and the other details about their lives pretty much follow suit. These sharks are considered to be the oldest-living vertebrates on the planet; it's estimated that these late bloomers can live to be 500 years old, while females don't even reach a reproductive age until they're 150! They might be slow, but at 23 feet long and 2,200 pounds with skin that's poisonous if ingested, they're not exactly the first sea creature we would advise confronting.
Our dear friend Spongebob has a few more thousand tries at getting his boating license if he lives up to the sea sponge reputation of aging up to a few thousand years (Sorry, Mrs. Puff). This is another animal whose age is related its size. The largest, and therefore oldest, sea sponge on record was discovered near the coast of Hawai'i; it was about the size of a minivan and 2,300 years old. These cemented and silent sea creatures are often mistaken for plants, but do in fact belong to the animal kingdom. So, they definitely deserve a spot among the longest-living animals on the planet.
We've all heard the rumor that the only animals capable of surviving an apocalypse are cockroaches. While it may be fun to imagine a world inhabited by only cockroaches (not), the fact of the matter is that the animal most likely to survive any kind of Earth-ending disaster is actually the tardigrade. These "water bears" are super tiny (nearly microscopic) animals that can live just about anywhere from the bottom of the ocean to a world ravaged by a radioactive spill. However tough they may be, they can't completely avoid death as a whole, so they earn a hefty ranking at #2 on our list of the longest-living animals.
The age reversal creams you see lining the shelves of the beauty aisles have nothing on this jellyfish that literally doesn't age. Regular jellyfish go through a life cycle we're all familiar with that involves growing from immaturity to adult to reproductive age and so on. However, the "immortal jellyfish" (Turritopsis dohrnii) skips the later in life stages and reverts back to an immature form (with NO anti-aging cream required). What's even more interesting is that the mature jellyfish revert back to their immature, polyp form when stressed! That's something humans definitely can't relate to. Because this jellyfish literally ages in reverse, it tops out our list of the Top 10 Longest Living Animals at #1.