How Long Animals Live: The Life Spans of 50 Animals

How long do animals live? We’ve illustrated the life span of animals from rodents to humans to sharks, showing how animal longevity ranges from a few years to 500 or more! See where you lie on our list of the life spans of 50 animals.

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What Animal Lives the Longest?

#1: The Immortal Jellyfish: Biologically Immortal

Turritopsis_dohrnii

Photo by Bachware (Wikimedia.org)

The animal with the longest life span is biologically immortal: Turritopsis dohrnii, also called the “immortal jellyfish.” This tiny creature can essentially hit the reset button in its growth, sexually maturing and then reverting to a sexually immature version of itself in a process called transdifferentiation, or the practice of converting adult cells to another type of tissue. This process has been getting some intense study as researchers work on gene therapies for humans. (Who knows? Perhaps one day human beings will discover how to transdifferentiate cells like these jellyfish do.) While it might not be a specific number of years, it’s clear that the immortal jellyfish has the longest life span of any animal.

#2: Black Coral: 4,265 (±44) years

A specific species of black coral, Leiopathes glaberrima, which is technically an animal and one of the longest-living organisms on the planet, grows at an intensely slow rate; a Hawaiian specimen was reported to have an age of 4,265(±44) years.

#3 Giant Barrel Sponges: 2,300 years

Giant barrel sponges, sometimes called “the redwoods of the ocean,” can live into the thousands as well, with one specimen living to 2,300 years.

#4: Ming the Ocean Quahog: 507 years

Reports have boasted of this old creature, nicknamed Ming, with some news outlets accusing scientists of killing it and other sources claiming that the resulting blowback was overblown. The 507-year-old shelled creature died in 2006, but it would have lived in the era of wooden ships!

#5: The Greenland Shark: 392 (±120) years

The Greenland shark hit the news as well, as specimens were reported to be anywhere between 272 and 512 years old. They also don’t reproduce until they’re about 150 years old.

Of course, animals are not necessarily the longest-living organism; that honor likely goes to a 5,065-year-old plant, the bristlecone pine. Of course, when you add in other factors, like biological immortality, it can definitely be difficult to rank the oldest organisms.

What Animal Has the Shortest Life Span?

The shortest life span an animal has is only a day. The “winner” here is an insect, specifically the mayfly, found near streams and lakes worldwide. A day in the life of a mayfly must be pretty intense!

The Life Span of Animals: A List of Common and Incredible Animals

Animal

Average Life Span in the Wild

House Mouse

1

Fowler’s Toad

5

Pigeon

5

Kangaroo (Western Grey)

6

Squirrel (Eastern Grey)

6

Cheetah

10

Chicken

10

Emu

10

Pronghorn

10

Dog

13

Bobcat

15

Grizzly Bear

15

Red-Crowned Crane

15

Channel Catfish

15

Tiger

15

Cow

20

American Bison

20

Southern Two-Toed Sloth

20

Rattlesnake (Eastern Diamondback)

20

Polar Bear

25

Horse

25

Burmese Rock Python

30

Naked Mole Rat

30

Orangutan

45

Koi

50

American Alligator

50

Lobster

50

Radiated Tortoise

50

Japanese Giant Salamander

50

Bald Eagle

50

Asian Elephant

50

Andean Condor

50

Olm

58

Greater Flamingo

60

Green-Winged Macaw

60

Tuatara

60

Human

79

Red Sea Urchin

100

Galápagos Tortoise

100

Freshwater Pearl Mussel

130

Geoduck

140

Aldabra Giant Tortoise

255

Bowhead Whale

200

Rougheye Rockfish

205

Deep-Sea Tube Worm

250

Greenland Shark

272

Ocean Quahog

507

Giant Barrel Sponge

2,300

Black Coral

4,309

Immortal Jellyfish

Biologically Immortal

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