7 Animals With Incredibly Long Life Spans
by Laura Cross
Published on June 29, 2012
Human longevity is increasing all the time. But compared to some other animals, a human's average life span (about 78.5 years according to the CDC) is nothing to brag about. One bird just celebrated his 79th birthday, and a certain reptile became a father for the first time at age 111.
We found seven creatures who get to spend a long time on Earth, some for hundreds of years.
Bowhead Whale — Average Life Span Over 200 Years
One hundred may be old for humans — and tortoises — but it's nothing for the bowhead whale. In fact, he’s only middle-aged at that point in his astoundingly long life. This species of whale can live for over 200 years. According to BBC Nature, a bowhead can survive for over two centuries because he has a very low body temperature — and the lower an animal's body temperature, the longer it can live.
In 2006, the Associated Press reported that a bomb lance fragment dating back to the 1890s was found in the blubber of a bowhead whale found off the coast of Alaska, making the whale’s age between 115 and 130 years old. Amazing.
Cockatoos — Average Life Span 40 - 60 Years
The average life span for a cockatoo in captivity is between 40 and 60 years, which is pretty impressive. But Cookie, the Major Mitchell's cockatoo pictured here, just celebrated his 79th birthday at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago on June 30. This makes him what is believed to be the world’s oldest living Major Mitchell’s cockatoo in professional care.
This charismatic cockatoo arrived at the zoo in 1934 and is one of the their most famous animals. He even has his own legion of fans called "Cookie's groupies."
So will Cookie make it to the big 8-0? Although he’s had some sinus issues recently, there’s no need to worry: Tim Snyder, curator of birds for the Chicago Zoological Society says, “Cookie’s health over the past year has been good.”
Giant Tortoises — Average Life Span 100 Years
Making it to 100 if you’re a human is quite an accomplishment. For giant tortoises, however, it might not be such a big deal — their average life span is 100 years.
In fact, several reptilian centenarians have made headlines recently. Lonesome George, an iconic Galapagos tortoise who was the last of his kind, passed away last week at age 100. Meanwhile, the giant turtle couple pictured above recently decided that after 115 years together, it was time to split up.
Possibly the most headline-grabbing giant tortoise of all, though, was Harriet, a Giant Galapagos Land Tortoise who lived to the ripe old age of 175 (give or take a year or two). Born in the 1830s, Harriet was collected by Charles Darwin when he visited the Galapagos Islands in 1835. After a brief stay in England, she was taken to Australia where the weather was more suitable for her. She spent the last two decades of her life at the Australia Zoo and passed away in June 2006.
Asian Elephants — Average Life Span 60 Years
The average life span of the Asian elephant in the wild is a hearty 60 years, but according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest elephant ever was Lin Wang, a pachyderm who lived to 86 years of age. The Asian elephant died in 2003 at the Taipei Zoo in Taiwan, and his life wasn’t all luxury and leisure: During World War II he carried supplies through the jungles of Myanmar for the Japanese Army. In fact, Lin Wang was captured by the Chinese in 1943.
There are a few living Asian elephants who could outlive Lin Wang in a few decades. Ambika (pictured above) is about 64 years old and lives at the National Zoo. Another Asian elephant named Hanako turned 65 in December at the Inokashira Park Zoo in Japan.
Western Lowland Gorillas — Average Life Span 50 Years
A Western Lowland Gorilla’s life expectancy is approximately 50 years, which is commendable. At age 55, a gorilla named Colo is the oldest gorilla living in captivity. Colo's other claim to fame is that she was the first gorilla born in captivity. The popular gorilla was born at the Columbus Zoo in 1956 and has been there ever since.
Colo has three children, 16 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren. That is one impressive family tree.
Tuatara — Average Life Span Over 100 Years
A reptile native to New Zealand, the tuatara is another creature that can live for over 100 years. What might be most astounding of all about this animal, though, is that in 2009, a male tuatara became a father for the first time at age 111. Age really is just a number! Henry, the novice tuatara father, lives at the Southland Musuem and Gallery in New Zealand and although he hasn't updated it recently, he even has his own blog. We assume he's too exhausted from keeping up with his offspring to write anything.
Manx Shearwater — Average Life Span is 15 Years But There Are Impressive Exceptions
While their average life span is only about 15 years, there's one Manx shearwater whose been circling the globe for at least 51 years and who has flown an estimated 5 million miles in his lifetime. According to Guinness World Records, this Manx shearwater is the oldest wild bird on record. Ornithologists ringed the bird in 1957, and he was last spotted off an island in Wales in 2004.
Talk about racking up the frequent flier miles!
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