The Longest-Lived Animals Ever Recorded

Of course, giant tortoises

By on 23 Jul 2007, 18:16 GMT
Elephants can live up to 60 years. Crocodiles can reach 80 and even more. Recent data points to the fact that large whales can live over 150 years. But clear data comes from huge land tortoises to crown them as the planet's most long lived animals.

If small tortoises can live over 30 years, the large ones can easily reach 180. The most long lived tortoise ever recorded (and the most long lived animal ever recorded) is Tu'i Malila ("king Malila") (c. 1777-May 19, 1966). This tortoise was given as a gift to the royal family of Tonga (an archipelago in Polynesia, in the center of Pacific) by the famous English explorer Captain James Cook, who had bought it from a Dutch merchant in Cape Town, South Africa, during his third (and last) voyage through the Pacific.

It belonged to the species radiated tortoise (Geochelone radiata) from Madagascar. It remained in the care of the royal family until death on 19 May, 1965 due to natural causes (heart swelling), at the age of 188. This tortoise species can grow up to 16 inch (50 cm) in shell length and be 35 pounds (16 kg) heavy.

There are claims that Adwaita ("the one and only" in Sanskrit) (c. 1750 - 23 March 2006), a male of Aldabra Giant Tortoise (Geochelone gigantea) in the Alipore Zoological Gardens of Kolkata, India, which died last year, could be the oldest creature ever recorded: 250 years old, but it's quite difficult to check the animal's age. This species can grow up to 90 cm (35 inch) in shell length and be 150 kg (330 pounds) heavy.

Another famous long lived tortoise was Harriet (c. 1830 - June 23, 2006), from the subspecies Geochelone nigra porteri of the Galapagos archipelago. It has died also last year at the age of 172. Born in November 1830 on an island in Santa Cruz (Galapagos), Harriet spent the earliest years of its life in the wild.

It was reportedly collected by Charles Darwin himself, when he visited the archipelago in 1835, when the animal was the size of a plate. Darwin brought it to England, and from England, Harriet reached her final home, Australia, in 1837, beig brought by a retiring captain of the Beagle, Commander John Wickham, who led the crew on an extensive survey of the Australian coast.

In 1842, Harriet was donated to Brisbane Botanical Gardens in Queensland. It was mistook for a male for the next 100 years, and keepers attempted in vain to mate it with other female Galapagos tortoises. In the 1960s, it was finally found that it was in fact a female. In 1988, the 330 pounds (150 kg) Harriet was moved to the Australia Zoo, where it spent the rest of hits life. Normally, Galapagos tortoises can even double Harriet's size.

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Harriet with Steve and Terri Irwin when it  was 175 years old
   Harriet with Steve and Terri Irwin when it was 175 years old