The oldest thing in the world

The oldest living thing on Earth is a massive "meadow" of sea grass growing in the Mediterranean between Spain and Cyprus. It's somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 years old and reproduces by cloning itself. Also, it's being killed by climate change.

Via Beth Buczynski


  1. “Between Spain and Cyprus” threw me until I clicked through to the article. Yep, they’re really talking about a 2,000 mile patch. Somehow “meadow” doesn’t seem like the right word.

  2. “… being killed by climate change …”  Sounds like evolution in action, a very natural process.   I say keep out of it, and let nature take its course.  

    1. “I say keep out of it, and let nature take its course.”

      Unless you’ve got a Golden Ticket to Newt’s new Moonbase Alpha you’re probably unable to keep out of it. You’re stuck in it like the rest of us, part of the biosphere, interfering with the course of nature on a daily basis.

      Would “…being killed by climate change…” in the context of millions humans dying in your region from starvation as crops fail globally sound as appealingly natural?

  3. Oldest living thing is a strange term, not mentioned in the original paper.  Clearly they mean genotype, so two twins are the same “thing”. I would have imagined the title for that would go to a protozoan, as some are apparently purely asexual. I guess it would be all but impossible to age those without genetic drift, so this might be the oldest measured, but still…

      1. Not necessarily. The modern bacteria are not the same as their early ancestors, just not so structurally different as plants or animals. They aren’t truly sexual but do trade genes, and actually change very quickly.

        I would be surprised if many living types are as old as this, though it’s not impossible. I was thinking of some more conservative group, like certain amoebae or flagellates, which only divide and nothing else.

  4. Climate change?  What’s that?  Why, just this week, we were treated to the news that the Himalayas are fine, and there are vast freshwater reserves under Antarctica.  Add that to all the fake climatologist emails and you have a manufactured crisis.  The earth is fine, so fuck the 200k year old 2000-mile undersea meadow of cloned seagrass.  Let’s go spill some oil and eat a Cesium tomato, kum-bye-yah.

    1. If it’s the one I’m thinking of in the Southwest it dates from only after the last ice age.  Maybe 10,000 years.  But it’s a clonal colony of genetically identical individuals as well.
      There’s a spruce up in Norway or Sweden that’s been naturally cloning itself by layering for maybe 30K years IIRC.

  5. Every article synopsis I read about unique biological entities seems to close with an obligatory Debbie Downer flourish.
    “Here’s a unique species you’ve never heard about. BTW, it’s dying!”.

    Is there such a thing as too aware? Are we supposed to be like Andie McDowell in her therapy session at the beginning of sex, lies and videotape?

    1. Yeah, I’m with ya. Whenever trouble is coming my way, I prefer to close my eyes, ears and mouth until it goes away. Sometimes, I just stick my head in the ground instead. It’s working so far!

  6. The Wikipedia article on clonal colonies has links to some fascinating plants.  
    I got lost in there last winter for hours and hours.  There’s an Aspen clonal colony out west that’s over 100 acres.

  7. Right; climates change.
     That’s why things this old are unusual. It’s also why the oldest thing on earth isn’t billions of years old, like the earth itself.

  8. From the paper:
    “Applying the same estimates to the genets shared between the two pairs of meadows … yields a minimum age estimate between 80,000 and 200,000 years …. Although there is no biologically compelling reason to exclude this possibility, we consider it to be an unlikely scenario because local sea level changes during the last ice age (from −80,000 to −10,000 years) would place these sampling locations on land (the sea was 100 metres below its present level). The dominance of identical clones on both sides of the island may, therefore, be explained by the occurrence of even older clones that would have been split during glaciation and spread upwards into the newly inundated areas, tracking sea level rise.”

    So, probably not 100,000-200,000 years old as a discrete entity.

  9. I always love how random a**holes on the Internet think they are smarter than scientists. Maybe a couple of you know what you are talking about…but  most likely not. I’m going to trust science. There’s nothing wrong with trying to show some love and respect for the planet you live on for the current and most importantly future generations.

  10. It disappoints me when scientists feel the need append climate change to every envirommental concern. If this plant is 200,00o years old, it has survived a couple of  climatic optimums far hotter (not to mention ice ages far colder) than today. If the plant is indeed in danger it far more likely to be the more prosaic reasons listed in the article. However “Really old plant affected by sediment” doesn’t really have the same ring to it does it?

  11. Seriously dudes, it’s been over 100 years since we figured out that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Do you dispute that? Do you dispute that we’ve taken CO2 out of the earth where it’s been sequestered for over 200 million years and put it back in the atmosphere? The alleged alternatives to the climate change hypothesis have been:

    1. It’s not happening. 
    2. It’s happening but not because of humans’ CO2, but other stuff–sunspots. Volcanoes. Something.
    3. It is happening and it is because of humans but whatever dude, it’ll all be alright because technology. Or magic. Or God’s will. Something.

    Get your heads out of the ground, dumbasses. There’s no evidence for 1, 2, or 3. Do you have a different alternative hypothesis that you think the evil scientists are hiding from the world? Let’s hear it.

    1. With 15 years of no warming, I’ll just take no. 1. You didn’t need the other two – they just made you sound stupid.

  12. If it’s 100’000 years old, will it not have lived through a whole series of climatic changes of greater magnitude than the one we are currently undergoing?

  13. “As the water warms, the organisms move slowly to higher altitudes. The Mediterranean is locked to the north by the European continent.”

    Say what?  Is this the warmest it’s been in 100,000 years?  Or has it only recently back itself into a corner?

  14. “Being killed” sounds deliberate. Every Snidely Whiplash wannabe like myself, tweaking his mustache, driving his SUV and not voting the way this author approves are left to revel in our ignorance. MUHAHAHAHAH.

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