We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Meet 8 of the World’s Longest-Living Animals and Other Species

From primates to parrots, these creatures stand apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Uncover the longest living animals and species in the world.

By Joshua Rapp Learn
Nov 1, 2023 6:00 PMMar 25, 2024 5:51 PM
Giant tortoise Tortuga
(Credit: IntoTheWorld/Shutterstock)


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Aging is a relative thing, and creatures like the Laysan albatross and the rougheye rockfish are known for their impressive longevity. They take the long road, living for decades, and in some cases, centuries — far outstripping the lifespans of the humans around them. 

Here’s a look at some of the longest-living animals and other species on our planet. 

1. Primates 

(Credit: marvin8894/Shutterstock)

Modern humans may be the longest living primates. The oldest verified human was a French woman named Jeanne Louise Calment who lived from 1875 to 1997 — 122 years, according to the Guinness World Records. But other primates are also long-lived. 

Chimpanzee Lifespan

Chimpanzees and orangutans, for example, can live between 50 and 55 years in the wild, according to a study published in 2012, and even longer in captivity.

Gorilla Lifespan

In the wild, gorillas have a lifespan of around 40 years. The maximum reported age of gorillas in the wild is 43 years. 

Neanderthal Lifespan

And even among hominins, humans may not have always been the longest living. According to some estimates, Neanderthals could have lived between the ages of 25 to 40.  Some research has revealed that Neanderthal life spans matched those of Homo sapiens at the time.  

Read More: What Are the Smartest Primates?

2. Greenland Sharks 

(Credit: Hemming1952/CC-By-4.0/Wikimedia Commons)

Greenland sharks are perhaps the oldest vertebrates on the planet. These giant fish are so old that they don’t even reach sexual maturity until they are about 150 years old.

Greenland Shark Lifespan

A study published in Science in 2016 found that sharks may live to 400 years old. And while there is some dispute on this age, many scientists agree that the sharks are at least centenarians.  

Oldest Living Greenland Shark

Through radiocarbon dating analysis of eye tissue samples from 28 Greenland sharks, scientists established that the oldest shark in the study had an estimated age between 272 and 512 years.

Read More: Yes, Some Greenland Sharks Are Old, but 400 Years Old?

3. Whales 

(Credit: Earth theater/Shutterstock)

The oldest mammals also happen to live in the Arctic's chilly waters. 

Bowhead Whale Lifespan

Take bowhead whales, which scientists believe could live more than 200 years. In case there was any doubt, the remains of a harpoon dating back 115 years was found lodged in the shoulder bone of a bowhead caught in Alaska about 15 years ago by Indigenous people.

Blue Whale Lifespan

Other cetaceans live a long time, as well — blue whales live between 80 and 90 years on average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Fin whales live similarly long to blue whales, while other species of cetaceans also live for decades.  

Read More: How Many Whales Are Left In the World?

4. Laysan Albatross 

(Credit: Tarpan/Shutterstock)

Some research shows that jogging can increase your lifespan — among humans, at least. And if the Laysan albatross is any indicator, then flying long distances should (in theory) increase the lifespan of certain winged species.

Laysan Albatross Lifespan

Almost entirely bred in Hawai’i, the Laysan albatross lives across the North Pacific in some seasons. The Laysan albatross has a potential lifespan of over 50 years. 

Oldest Living Laysan Albatross

One Laysan albatross named Wisdom has been tracked by researchers for decades, and is believed to be at least 71 years old. The septuagenarian is the world’s oldest known wild bird. She may have even outlived her mate of 60 years, who went missing last month.    

Read More: Can Birds See Glass: How To Prevent Birds From Hitting Windows During Migration

5. Parrots 

Cookie the cockatoo, seen here in 2008, passed away in 2016 at the age of 83. (Credit: Nimesh M/Wikimedia Commons)

While Wisdom may be the oldest known wild bird, captivity can extend lifespans. Many parrot species live long lives in captivity and routinely outlive their owners.  

Oldest Living Pink Cockatoo

In 2016, a pink cockatoo named Cookie — held at the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago — died at the sprightly estimated age of 83 years old, holding the Guinness World Record for the oldest bird.

Oldest Living Sulphur-crested Cockatoo 

But a sulphur-crested cockatoo named Cocky Bennett may have lived to 120 dying in a hotel in Australia. 

Kākāpōs Lifespan

Kākāpōs, meanwhile, are estimated to live up to 90 years, according to the New Zealand Department of Conservation. 

Read More: Parrots Live in New York City. Here’s How They Make It in the Urban Jungle

6. Tuataras 

Tuataras (Credit: HannaTor/Shutterstock)

New Zealand is home to another strange long-lived species. Tuataras aren’t only an evolutionary relic dating back to the time of the dinosaurs, they also live long. 

Tuataras Lifespan

Tuataras appear roughly similar to lizards but they are an entirely distinct order of reptiles. This species lives 60 years on average, according to the New Zealand Department of Conservation, and can live up to 100.  

Oldest Living Tuatara

The oldest Tuatara to ever live was named Henry. Henry lived at the Southland Museum in Invercargill, New Zealand, and he became quite famous for his remarkable age. He was estimated to be over 111 years old when he passed away in 2010.

Read More: Tuataras and The Question of Living Fossils

7. Giant Tortoises 

A photo of Jonathan the tortoise taken in March, 2020. (Credit: Kevstan/Wikimedia Commons)

There's more than one way that a tortoise can beat a hare. 

Giant Tortoise Lifespan

Giant tortoises can live for more than 100 years, and there are even cases of them living for over 150 years.

Oldest Living Giant Tortoise

Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise, hatched in 1832 and recently celebrated his estimated 190th birthday in St. Helena, an island in the South Atlantic.

Giant tortoises are generally very long-lived — the next oldest recorded tortoise died aged at least 188 years old. Captain James Cook presented a Madagascar radiated tortoise to the royal family in Tonga in the 1770s, and it went on to live to 1965. The last known Pinta Island tortoise, Lonesome George, died in 2012 after at least a century.   

Read More: Why Is Darwin Island in the Galapagos Off-Limits to Visitors?

8. Rougheye Rockfish 

(Credit: Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock)

Rougheye rockfish are found around the North Pacific from San Diego up through Alaska, as well as across the Bering Sea into Japan. And they aren’t that rare, as commercial harvesters commonly catch them off the coast of northwestern U.S.   

Rougheye Rockfish Lifespan

Some of the rockfish observed in the coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean exhibit remarkable longevity, living for multiple decades.

Oldest Living Rockfish

The oldest known rockfish lived to be 205 years old, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

Read More: Do Fish Feel Pain?

This article was originally published on Jan. 17, 2023 and has since been updated with new information from the Discover staff.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.