The largest tortoise in the world, the Galapagos tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) is one massive reptile. Known as the giant tortoise, at an average of 500 pounds, but with a record weight of 1,100 pounds, it lives up to its name. Amazingly, it gets to this huge size as a herbivore. What’s more amazing is how long a tortoise can live. A Galapagos Tortoise lives over 100 years, on average. Since this is their average lifespan, the reptile easily reaches ages nearing 200, and makes them one of the planet’s longest-living animals.
Harriet, a Galapagos tortoise who was, according to some accounts, collected by Charles Darwin during his 1835 expedition to the Galapagos Islands, lived at least 175 years. Harriet died in 2006 at the Australia Zoo. A Galapagos tortoise doesn’t reach maturity until it’s almost 25 years old. When they nest, females dig a hole about a foot deep and deposit baseball-sized eggs into the hole. And that’s it. The baby tortoise must dig their way out after hatching. It can take the little hatchlings up to a month! Fun fact: The scaly mug of a Galapagos Tortoise was the inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s E.T.
Red Sea Urchin
This shore dweller lives a quiet life clinging to rocks and coral, waiting for the waves of the sea to bring in its food. It can and does move, very slowly. It’s a small prickly specimen, so, as it will not have time to move out of your way, you’d do best not stepping on it. Its entire body is covered in sharp spines. Luckily, it comes in bright red and orange colors to help you avoid it. The red sea urchin (Mesocentrotus franciscanus) lives in the Pacific Ocean on the shores of Baja California up to Alaska.
A sea urchin can definitely outlive you. It’s one of Earth’s longest-living animals. It’s common for an urchin to live to be 100, but some are 200 years old, and they don’t look a day over 50. They grow very slowly and hardly age. Sea urchins never stop reproducing, it’s like they don’t have an old age period. Also, they can regenerate broken spines and its tiny rows of suction-cup tube feet that help it move and adhere to rocks. Underneath, on its belly, is the sea urchin’s mouth, which scrapes seaweeds and algae from low tide sea surfaces.
Like a blue whale, only fifty tons lighter, the finback whale makes a human look like a telescope cardinal swimming next to it. The finback whale (Balaenoptera physalus) is the second-largest species on Earth after the blue whale. As a baleen giant, a unique fin on their back differentiates this whale. But, like the blue, it is on the endangered species list, having had its populations nearly decimated during the 20th century.
Some survivors would remember the days when harpoons were flying. A finback whale can live 80 to 100 years. The finback whale is as large as a ship and also as fast as one. Its streamlined body helps it torpedo through the sea at speeds up to 29 mph. Their great speeds were no match for whalers.
Pacific Ocean Perch
The Pacific Ocean perch (Sebastes alutus) is commonly found off the coast of British Columbia, but they have been spotted all the way down to California. Its numbers have recovered and are now high enough to be commercially fished. Though it is plentifully found, one thing that is unique about this fish is its lifespan. As a very slow growing fish that doesn’t mature until 10 years of age, can live to be 98 years old!
Pacific Ocean perch, from the rockfish family, grow to be 20 inches long and just 4 pounds. These smaller ocean fish prefer a deep-water lifestyle most of the year and are preyed upon by Sablefish, halibut and sperm whales. They are sweet, firm, low in fat, and high in Omega-3s.
For its size, the Brandt’s bat has an astounding lifespan. This tiny critter is the longest-living bat known. One of its kind from Siberia, that was tracked with bands in the early ’60s, lived 41 years. Others that were marked with bands lived in excess of 20 years. Since the longevity of mammals, in general, is based on their size, larger mammals living longer, Brandt’s bat is certainly an exception. The diminutive cave dweller, which has fur and is born of a live birth like all other mammals, is barely 2 inches in length and weighs a minuscule 8 grams. A hummingbird might match this bat ounce for ounce.
Scientists are studying the Brandt’s bat for its longevity. Specifically, they are looking at genetic adaptations that contribute to its longer lifespan to understand the genetic basis for why different species live longer.