Five of the World's Oldest Organisms - Atlas Obscura
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Five of the World’s Oldest Organisms

article-imageQuaking Aspens (photograph by Scott Catron)

This week it was revealed that Ming the Mollusk, a clam found deep in the Atlantic off of Iceland in 2006, was in fact 507 years old, making it the oldest living animal and a whole century older than was first believed. Unfortunately, upon discovering Ming, a clam that was named for the Chinese dynasty that was in power when it was born in 1499, scientists froze it, and its long journey through the centuries in the sea was ended. 

However, as Science Nordic reported, ”although the latest research has established that Ming is 100 years older than originally thought, it is still not certain that Ming is the rightful owner of the title as the world’s oldest animal” as if we include “primitive organisms” in the count, there are contenders like the glass sponge of which “some researchers even believe they have found specimens with ages of up to 23,000 years.”

Whether or not Ming claims the oldest animal throne, there are these organisms out there that live in stretches of centuries, for which the life of a human must seem like that of a mayfly. Here are a few below. We also highly recommend photographer Rachel Sussman’s ongoing project of photographing the oldest living things in the world for even more elderly organisms. 

THE TREMBLING GIANT
Richfield, Utah

article-imagephotograph by J Zapell

Known as Pando or “The Trembling Giant,” this Quaking Aspen colony has a root system estimated to have reached around 80,000 years old. It’s also a hefty forest creature, weighing about 6,000,000 kg, making it also one of the heaviest organisms in the world. 

HUMUNGOUS FUNGUS
Grant, Oregon

article-imagephotograph by Charles de Mills-Isles

Covering 2,200 acres in Oregon, the “Humungous Fungus” is a networked organism that has lived to 2,400 years old, regularly sprouting up mushrooms from the soil it infests. 

SALT MINE BACTERIA
Clay, Kansas

article-imagevia Atlas Obscura

Located 65 stories beneath the Earth, the Kansas Underground Salt Museum is where living bacteria that are 100 million years older than the dinosaurs were discovered. The virgibacillus bacteria were encased inside a 250 million year old salt crystal and now have been resurrected from their geological tomb. 

ANCIENT SEAGRASS
Mediterranean Sea

article-imagephotograph by Alberto Romeo

Ancient meadows now covered with water stretch for 2,000 miles in the Mediterranean between Spain and Cyprus. The 40 seagrass meadows are believed to be at least 100,000 years old. 

COOKIE 
Chicago, Illinois 

article-imageCookie in 2007 (via Wikimedia)

Perhaps not quite as ancient as the other organisms on this list, but we have to include Cookie who resides at the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago. The 80-year-old Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo is the oldest of his species, and also one of the oldest birds of all time. He also is the only animal to have lived through the whole history of the zoo, and remains a beloved presence.