I've always been fascinated by nature and the sheer diversity of plants and creatures in it. There's also great diversity in the lifespan of these creatures, some of which are simply amazing.
The oldest verified person was a woman named Jeanne Calment, who lived to an age of 122 years before she died in 1997. Now that's old, but it's nothing compared to some of the planet's other living organisms. On the other end of the spectrum there's the Mayfly, a flying insect that only lives in its adult form for 24 hours, its entire life dedicated to reproducing; it doesn't even develop a mouth, since they simply lack the time for eating. The oldest living tree is called Methuselah and is a Great Basin bristlecone pine of 4,853 years! If only trees could tell stories...
Well, maybe those stories wouldn't be that interesting, seeing that trees always stay in the same spot. Thinking about actual moving creatures, animals, there's a general rule that slower metabolisms and slower heartbeats usually translate into longer lives. Some of the slowest metabolisms are found in the freezing dark cold of the deep sea, and some years ago marine biologists have found a Greenland shark that may be the oldest shark ever discovered, with an estimated age of over 500 years. Let me repeat that: 500 years!
Greenland sharks have the longest known lifespan of all vertebrate species, estimated between 250 and 500 years. They don't even reach reproduction-age until they're 150 years old. I've been fascinated by sharks since I was a little kid and was amazed to learn that some of these sea predators can never stop swimming in order to keep water flowing through their gills. But to now learn that some of them stay alive for over 500 years... that's so amazing. This means that some of them have been alive since the first European settlers set foot on the American continent. They're older than William Shakespeare would have been... Thinking about these facts of nature puts things into perspective for me, makes me step back and think that we should never stop being amazed by the wonderful and amazing universe we find ourselves in. And maybe treat the planet and all its living creatures with a little more care and respect...
Oldest Shark in the World - 512 Year Old Greenland Shark
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