Ranked: The Animals with the Top Life Expectancy

Human life expectancy has increased dramatically in the last two centuries. The average lifespan has grown from less than 30 years in the early 1800s to around 80 years at present. This increase is attributed to better healthcare, nutrition, safer workplaces, and more. 

We have put together the top 15 animals with the longest life expectancy. It’s interesting to see which ones outlive even us! 

Below is a table of animals ranked by life expectancy. The second column shows the number of years the average animal is expected to live.

The Animals with the Top Life Expectancy

1. The Immortal Jellyfish

The Turritopsis dohrnii, a jellyfish that can live forever, can be found in the Mediterranean Sea and in the waters of Japan. It is one of the smallest animals in the world, being only about 4.5 millimeters wide. [1]

When it senses danger, it sinks to the bottom of the ocean and forms a cocoon around itself. The polyp then eats itself from the inside out until nothing is left but its stem cells. The stem cells then regenerate and form into a new adult jellyfish that lives forever.

The Sea Wasp - Immortal Jellyfish
The Sea Wasp – Immortal Jellyfish

2. Giant Barrel Sponge

Giant barrel sponges are a species of deep-sea sponge that can live to be more than 2,300 years old. Like many other sponges, they form colonies and reproduce by budding, which is when a new organism grows from an existing one. 

They can grow up to three feet tall and nearly six feet wide and are usually orange or red in color. Giant barrel sponges are found in the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, where they usually live at depths of about 33 feet, but they can also live in waters as deep as 390 feet or more. [4] [5]

3. The Deep-Sea Tube Worm

The Deep-Sea Tube Worm

The giant deep-sea tube worm can live up to 1000 years. The creature was discovered at a depth of approximately 2.5 miles below the ocean surface near the Galapagos Islands in 1977. [2] [3]

Tube worms eat by filtering food from the water around them. Scientists have yet to determine whether the worms die of old age or if they succumb to disease or predators.

4. Greenland Shark

Greenland Shark

The Greenland shark is a massive fish that lives in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. There are currently no accurate estimates of the size of the population, but these creatures are considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). 

They can grow up to 21 feet long and weigh over 2,000 pounds. The average lifespan of a Greenland shark is about 250 years, but they can live for more than 500 years. [6]

5. Ocean Quahog

Ocean Quahog

This particular species of clam is known as the “Ming clam” because it was alive during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). According to Guinness World Records, the oldest recorded specimen was over 507 years old when it died in 2006. [7]

6. Rougheye Rockfish

Rougheye Rockfish

Rougheye rockfish has one of the longest lifespans of all fish species. They are found in the eastern North Pacific Ocean, from the Aleutian Islands to northern Baja California and off Japan.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, these deep-sea fish can live up to 205 years old and grow up to 3 feet long. [9]

7. Bowhead Whale

Bowhead Whale

The Bowhead whale is one of our planet’s longest-living mammals. These giants of the sea can live more than 200 years in the Arctic and sub-arctic waters around Alaska, Canada, Russia, and Greenland. [10]

Bowhead whales grow to be about 60 feet long and weigh up to 100 tons. They are small compared to their extinct ancestors, who grew to over 120 feet in length, but they are still one of the largest animals on earth today. [11]

8. Geoduck

Geoduck

The geoduck is a species of the giant clam. Despite its unusual appearance, it has a high life expectancy: about 165 years! Geoducks are native to the west coast of North America, and they can grow up to be as long as four feet or weigh up to 15 pounds. [12]

9. Freshwater Pearl Mussel

Freshwater Pearl Mussel

These mussels are freshwater bivalves (a group of mollusks with two shells) native to Europe and Asia. They’re considered endangered in more than half of their range because they take so long to develop and reproduce.

These mussels can live up to 200 years and can be found in many freshwater rivers around the world. In fact, many mussels have been found that are over 100 years old. [13]

10. Red Sea Urchin

Red Sea Urchin

Red sea urchins are extremely long-lived organisms. The average lifespan of red sea urchins is 100 years, with some specimens reaching the age of 200 years or more. [14]

Red sea urchins are most commonly found in the Northern and Southern Pacific Oceans. They live in the shallow waters up to depths of 100 meters, often hiding under rocks during the day. The red sea urchin feeds on kelp, a type of seaweed that it eats by scraping off its soft parts with its teeth.

11. Galapagos Giant Tortoise

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

Its average lifespan is over 100 years, and the oldest recorded specimen lived to be 170. Their long life is due to their low metabolic rate and simple digestive system. Naturally, they spend most of their time in water or mud in order to regulate their body temperature, which also helps them live longer lives. [15]

12. Humans

Humans
Portrait of a beautiful old woman with gray hair and glasses is sitting in a chair in her home.

The average life expectancy for humans has been on a bit of a roller coaster over the years. Back in the early days of mankind, our ancestors were lucky to make it to age 30, but thanks to advances in technology, modern medicine, and healthier lifestyles in general, we’re now living longer than ever before.

In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), these days, the global average lifespan of humans is 72.6 years (as of 2019). [16]

13. Macaw

scarlet macaw parrot
Close up of colorful scarlet macaw parrot

Macaws are the most brightly colored members of the parrot family. Originating in Central and South America, they are a highly intelligent species with an average lifespan of 20-60 years. Though they can live long lives, they require a lot of care and attention, which is why they are not common pets. [17]

14. Longfin Eel

Fish eels are for sale
Nha Trang, Vietnam – October 22, 2011: Fish eels are for sale in a local seafood market at the seaport in Vietnam

Longfin eels are animals that live for a long time. So long, in fact, that scientists can’t say for sure how long exactly they live. Some believe that these eels may live for 100 years or more. Longfin eels grow up to 10 feet in length and weigh up to 70 pounds. These fish hail from New Zealand and the females of their species only mate once before they die. [18]

15. Koi Fish

Fancy Koi fish or Fancy Carp swimming in a black pond fish pond
Fancy Koi fish or Fancy Carp swimming in a black pond fish pond. Popular pets for relaxation and feng shui meaning.

Koi fish are domesticated varieties of the common carp. The Japanese have been breeding Koi for over 2,000 years, and they make a beautiful addition to any pond. [19]

In their natural state, Koi can live up to 40 years. However, they can live up to 100 years in captivity with proper care. If you’re considering owning Koi fish, it’s important to note that they aren’t cheap — you can easily spend several hundred dollars on one of these fish, depending on the type.

Conclusion

Some animals indeed have longer life spans than others. As a matter of fact, it was found that aquatic animals tend to have higher life expectancy than other mammals and reptiles. Nonetheless, there are numerous factors that lead to an increased aging process. 

The size and weight of the animal are important factors. Some animals are made in a way to help them live longer and stay healthy compared to other species in the animal kingdom. Other factors which play an important role in life expectancy include diet, reproduction, and physiology.

References

  1. https://www.amnh.org/explore/news-blogs/on-exhibit-posts/the-immortal-jellyfish
  2. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2141387-giant-deep-sea-worms-may-live-to-be-1000-years-old-or-more/
  3. https://nautiluslive.org/album/2015/06/20/life-extremes-tube-worms
  4. https://www.americanoceans.org/species/giant-barrel-sponge
  5. https://marinesanctuary.org/blog/sea-wonder-giant-barrel-sponge
  6. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/greenland-shark.html
  7. https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/86633-longest-lived-animal
  8. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/killing-oldest-fish-marine-reserve
  9. https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species/sebastes-aleutianus#desc-range
  10. https://247wallst.com/economy/2021/06/11/bowhead-whale-is-the-worlds-longest-living-mammal/
  11. https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/education/wns/bowhead_whale.pdf
  12. https://oceana.org/marine-life/geoduck/
  13. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/201170340_Life_Span_Variation_of_the_Freshwater_Pearl_Shell_A_Model_Species_for_Testing_Longevity_Mechanisms_in_Animals
  14. https://today.oregonstate.edu/archives/2003/nov/red-sea-urchins-discovered-be-one-earths-oldest-animals
  15. https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/facts/galapagos-tortoise
  16. https://ourworldindata.org/life-expectancy
  17. https://www.psittacology.com/how-long-does-a-macaw-live/
  18. https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/freshwater-fish/eels/freshwater-eels-in-new-zealand/
  19. https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/japanese-koi