The average life expectancy for someone living in the US is between 77-80 years. For other animals, they can live relatively short lives like the house fly (20-30 days), or long lives like the giant tortoise (177 years).
Plant life and bacteria can have radically different life spans however. Some are almost unbelievable. This leads us to the question, “What is the world’s oldest living thing?”
It’s actually an elusive and somewhat tricky question. For instance, there are a number of different organisms that could hold the record for the longest lived, and some still have their ages under investigation. We will list a few of the contenders and leave it to you to decide.
Bristlecone pine trees, found in the White Mountains of California, can live a very, very long time. Many of them are over four thousand years old. One particular Bristlecone, called Prometheus, was measured by ring count to be 4,862 years old when it was chopped down in 1964. This makes it the oldest verified age for any living organism at the time of its felling.
Another Bristlecone Pine, known as Methuselah, is 4,838 years old according to the count of rings taken in sample cores. This makes it the oldest known tree in North America, and the oldest known living individual tree in the world. To put that in perspective, it was a sapling when the pyramids were being built. Conservation specialists are keeping the location of the tree secret for obvious reasons.
Oldest Clonal Plant
The record holder for this title belongs to a Quaking Aspen tree colony nicknamed “Pando”. It has been estimated to be roughly 80,000 years old. Unlike many other clonal colonies, the above ground trunks remain connected to each other via a single massive underground root system.
In October of 1999, scientists discovered 250-million-year-old bacteria in ancient sea salt beneath Carlsbad, New Mexico. Researchers claim that they revived these microscopic organisms in a laboratory after being in a state of ‘suspended animation’. They survived by being encased in a hard-shelled spore for 250 million years. The species has not been identified, but is referred to as strain 2-9-3, or B. permians. These claims have been made by credible researchers, but are not universally accepted as of yet.
Bonus science fact: The giant barrel sponge, Xestospongia muta, is one of the longest-lived animals. The largest specimens located in the Caribbean are estimated to be in excess of 2,250 years.