Photo of world's oldest living animal?

This photo of a tortoise was taken around 1900 on the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. The tortoise, named Jonathan, still lives there today. He may be the world's oldest living animal. From The Telegraph:
 Telegraph Multimedia Archive 01125 Oldest Animal 1125975FA spokesman for the island's tourist board said Jonathan is owned by the St Helena government and lives in the specially built plantation on the governor's land.

He said: "Jonathan is the sole survivor of three tortoises that arrived on St Helena Island in 1882.

"He was already mature when he arrived and was at least 50-years-old.

"Therefore his minimum age is 176-years-old. He is the oldest inhabitant on St Helena and is claimed to be the oldest living tortoise in the world.
"World's oldest living animal discovered after he is pictured in 1900 photograph"


  1. Yikes.
    I just got to the end of the clip I linked.
    I do not advocate killing turtles for their ignorance. Sheesh.

  2. It is interesting that when you mention the existence of a very old tortise to a Chinese person they will not be surprised. They have always known of the extreme possibilities of that sort of animals age.

    First time I mentioned an old tortise my wife (Chinese) was surprised that I was surprised. She said, “You didn’t know how old they can get? Whaaa…? They can get much older than that one, actually.”

    Makes you wonder what else we don’t know we don’t know.

  3. I read that the Greenland Shark is thought to live up to 200 years… And some clams have multi-century lifespans, too. In any case, it seems that longevity is related to sluggishness.

  4. There is an old box turtle in my town (on Martha’s Vineyard, MA), who has initials and dates on it that go back to 1861. I have a 1933 article from the local paper that tells the story of this animal and the people who had initialed it up to that time, and have spoken to “old timers” here who can name the carvers of all the initials. I don’t know how old a box turtle is when it’s adult size, but if it’s twenty years, then that turtle hatched about 1840, and would be close to 170 years old.

  5. The first time I went to the San Diego Zoo I was watching the tortoises when an old man,at least 80 years old, teetered over with a cane. I got a little stressed out when he then reached his arm and cane over the wall. Instantly, one of the tortoises scooted over and tilted its head way back exposing its chin for the man. The old timer then proceeded to give the tortoise a vigorous chin scratching while it rolled back its eyes in ecstasy.

    The man saw the stunned look on my face and said, “When I was a kid a I used to come here and ride ’em. They loved it. The place was full of kids playing with ’em. Now they got all these damn walls up! Bah!”

    I did already know how old tortoises could get, but it was a truly awe inspiring moment to be in the presence of one that had watched the same visitor age from a little rapscallion to a cane wielding octogenarian.

  6. “Jonathan is ‘owned’ by the St Helena government”

    It’s funny that people would try to claim ownership of an animal whose life span will likely bookend theirs (with decades to spare on either end).

  7. Aren’t deep-sea tube worms the oldest animals? These are pretty easy-going animals, so it would make sense. Maybe this tortoise is the oldest recorded living creature. (I mean, there is proof of it’s age)

  8. In one of his books, Stephen J. Gould had an essay about long-lived turtles. IIRC (which in this case means I will have gotten most of the significant details wrong) he told a story that the King of Portugal made a gift of a turtle to a zoo in Spain. The turtle was a popular exhibit, and was missed when it died 75 years later. The people of this city paid to replace the turtle with another of the same type, and gave the turtle the same name. After a generation passed, people forgot the first turtle had died; they talked of their turtle that had been given to the zoo by the King of Portugal, and was now 125 years old.

  9. This article reminded me to go downstairs and throw a few earth worms at Porky the box turtle. I’ve had him for 20 years.
    The other day I was reading about long-lived plants for no reason at all. Apparently clonal colonies of plants – populations of genetically identical individuals created by natural rooting – vegetative reproduction – of an original individual can live for tens of thousands of years and cover many acres. the Bristlecone pines may be the oldest individual living things but there are living remnants of a spruce in Norway that grew from seed over 45,000 years ago and a ring of creosote bushes in Arizona (Utah?) that dates back to the end of the last ice age.

    1. ring of creosote bushes in Arizona (Utah?) that dates back to the end of the last ice age.

      Palm Springs.

  10. I heard 200 years for clams. Recently a whale was killed that had a spear head in it that was over 150 years old. Maybe I read that here. Amazing to live over 150 years. And to spend a century and a half with part of a murder weapon buried in your flesh.

    1. When I was growing up, there was a pet store in the next town that had a parrot that had been raised on a pirate ship and would sing piratical chanteys.

  11. My local pet shop has a Spur Thighed Tortoise named Martin who is huge. Probably 24″ for the shell length alone. Head the size of 2 large fists. He’s 14 years old and appeared in this movie 5 years ago.

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