Oldest Living Tortoise and Other Long-Lived Animals


Some facts are clear about all giant tortoise species, they’re big and they can live a very long time. Some facts are unclear regarding the distinction between species and subspecies.

Robin and I posing with this big guy on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos, who is somewhere around 100 years old but doesn’t look a day over 80

The South Atlantic Island of St. Helena is celebrating the birthday of the world’s oldest living land animal – a Seychelles giant tortoise called Jonathan, who is turning 190.

The island Governor’s house, where Jonathan has spent most of his life, is marking the occasion by opening for three days to visitors wishing to celebrate.

While there’s no real record of his birth, Jonathan is thought to have been born around 1832, that’s about 15 years before Abner Doubleday (or whoever it was) invented baseball and 48 years before the microscope was invented.

According to Guinness World Records, Jonathan is also the oldest ever chelonian, a category that encompasses all turtles, terrapins and tortoises.

There are two separate divisions of giant tortoises, those who live the Galapagos Islands (either up to six to 12 species or subspecies) as variations have evolved differently dependent on what they eat. There are also species or subspecies in the Seychelle Islands and Aldabra Island which are distinctly different than their Galapagos cousins.

Though these reptiles live a very long time, so much remains a mystery. In 2019, a team of four rangers from the Galápagos National Park made a remarkable discovery. During an expedition on Fernandina Island, the team found a lone female giant tortoise belonging to a species that was thought to be extinct.

On June 24, 2012, the world-famous giant tortoise affectionately known as “Lonesome George” passed away at somewhere over the age of 100. He was the last surviving land tortoise from Pinta Island, one of the northern islands in the Galápagos.

Life as the world’s oldest tortoise

In St. Helena, Jonathan is something of a celebrity. The elderly animal lives alongside three other giant tortoises – David, Emma and Fred.

Though old age has left Jonathan blind and with no sense of smell, his hearing is pretty decent. According to Guinness World Records, he responds well to the sound of his veterinarian’s voice.

In spite of his age, there’s no need for Viagra. Jonathan still has a good libido and is seen frequently canoodling with Emma and sometimes even Fred, according to reports.

Longest lived animals

How is it some species, like the Bowheard whale, age so gradually and don’t get cancers or arthritis?

There are unconfirmed indications of some giant tortoises who have lived over 200 years. The Giant Albatross, a part time resident of the Galapagos, can live to near 70 years.

The red sea urchin in the arctic can live for 200 years. Cold water must be a kind of fountain of youth, as Greenland Sharks live to be well over 300 years old, and perhaps up to 500 years.

Species such as red coral can live up to 500 years, but they’re not the only immobile marine creature that can live an extremely long time. Monorhaphis chuni, a species of sponge that can live more than 2,000 meters under the sea, can live for 11,000 years. Ocean quahogs are among the longest-living marine organisms in the world. The ocean quahog is a species of edible clam.

The Bowhead whale has a lifespan of 200 years. The largest creature on the planet, blue whales, typically live 80 to 100 years, still impressive.

Many parrot species can live anywhere from 40 to 75 years, though they may potentially live longer in captivity.

The oldest dog ever reliably recorded was a female Australian cattle-dog named Bluey, who reached the grand age of 29 years five months. The oldest cat ever is Creme Puff, a domestic cat who lived to an age of 38 years three days.

On the other hand, some fruit flies live only a month.