One Year Older: The Oldest Known Species of the Oceans

Here we are, one more long rotation around the sun. All of us aging, growing closer to the day where we return to where we came from. But not all is lost. If we’re lucky, we have yet another year of adventure, family, friends, and doing it all over again.

If we’re lucky, we’ll all make it to our birthdays in 2019, so here at Deepblu we thought we’d put together a list of aquatic animals that get to have a lot of birthdays. These creatures are the best in their class at becoming geriatric.

Ming the Clam

Ming the Clam Photo: Bangor University

Also known as HafrĂșn, which means “mystery of the ocean,” Ming the clam was given its name because it was born during China’s Ming dynasty. You heard that right. Let’s go through a few more things that happened the year Ming came into existence. Pope Pius IV, who died in 1565, was born. Louis XII of France got married, so did Catherine of Aragon. Amerigo Vespucci discovered Lake Maracaibo. Deaths by hanging were in full-swing at the Tower of London. By the end of the year, France had occupied Milan. The year was 1499. Ming would go on to live until accidentally killed by scientists in 2006 at the age of 507.

Wisdom the Albatross

Wisdom tends to her egg.

This albatross, Wisdom, is a 67-year-old Laysian albatross that lives at the Midway Atoll. Not only has she set the record as the oldest living bird, but as recently as December of 2017 she has been laying eggs and raising healthy young. Even more astounding, while most albatross only lay an egg every two years, Wisdom is back at it yearly, making the count of her young a quite prolific 41. These monogamous birds typically only live to be about 40. On the science side of things, we’re lucky that she was tagged at birth and by chance alone we have a record of her entire life thanks to Chandler Robins, who himself lived a fulfilling life until passing away in Maryland at the age of 98 last year.

Greenland Sharks

A Greenland shark image captured via ROV.

This one is a group count, as we don’t really get enough data on Greenland sharks to fully understand their life cycles. But, we are getting closer and this is an important one because last year an article circulated that scientists had found one living at the age of 512, which simply isn’t true. While they do live to be many centuries old, the group of 28 sharks observed seem to max out at 392, which by all means is impressive on its own. Their secret? A slow moving life, staying away from people, and generally taking it easy. Perhaps these methods could have everyone reading this seeing the year 2100 and beyond.

Hydra

Named for the multi-headed monster of Greek lore, and looking a bit like it, the hydra, a freshwater polyp, can probably live forever. They don’t fall apart and lose strength as they age, they simply build new cells to replace the old ones that are just as good as the ones they had before. In short, they simply choose not to take part in the aging process. Their bodies are composed mostly of stem cells, which can turn into any type of cell in the body and continuously regenerate systems which would otherwise break down. Since we’ve been studying hydras, their fertility rate seems to maintain in about 80% of the population through their lifespan, which could mean that this is the world of the hydra at some point.

Bowhead Whales

Bowhead whales are the longest-living mammal on Earth. In fact, some of them are found with ivory spears from attempts to capture them hundreds of years ago. An early target in the whaling trade, this species was protected via moratorium in 1966 and has since gone back to “least concern” status classification under standards produced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The oldest individual observed by science is 211 years old, and multiple specimens have been found living well over the age of 100.

We’re hoping that this gives a bit of perspective. While we may feel a bit old as 2018 comes to a close, as humans we’re virtually babies in the grand scheme of things. As our personal accomplishments, daily lives, dramas, and lives unfold before us, they all occur within a small fraction of the lifespan of other lifeforms. Remember that, and go forth into a happy new year and a prosperous 2019! See you on the other side of the calendar.

– Todd Allen Williams, Senior Editor