General Question

ibstubro's avatar

Can you believe that there are living organisms on the Earth that are over 5,000 years old?

Asked by ibstubro (18636points) May 17th, 2014

I find it practically unbelievable, but a man cut a tree down to count the rings, only to find that he had killed an organism 4,900 years old! They have since found a living tree that’s believed to be over 5,000 year old.

Is there perhaps some anomaly that that could cause a tree to produce more than one ring per year?

It was mentioned that the oldest animal is (I believe) an oyster, at about 500 years old.

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33 Answers

Mimishu1995's avatar

First, I do. It’s life anyway, anything can happen. And as long as the age of an organism is within the Earth’s age, the organism can stand a chance of living so long. Moreover, it’s a tree, and trees have a reputation of living for a very long time (one tree actually outlives a turtle).

Second, where is the source?

gailcalled's avatar

World’s oldest living tree (in Sweden) estimated to be c.9550 years old. Here with four of its slightly younger siblings.

ibstubro's avatar

Maybe there’s some dispute about the method of dating, @gailcalled? I’m not sure how they date a tree without killing it, or putting it in danger of disease/dying?

My info came from NPR, which I generally find to be accurate but impossible to search.

Google gets me Guinness.

This says “Thompson points to a study of tree rings from Ireland and England that span a period of 7,000 years.”

gailcalled's avatar

The first comment on your Guiness page says:

From John ONeil · Anchorage, Alaska:

“Can’t believe I’m correcting Guinness but guys, that record actually belongs to the 9,550 year old Norway pine in Sweden.”

Here’s one version of how to date a tree, approximately, without cutting it down. Source.

Coloma's avatar

“Methuselah” has an older relative now.

ibstubro's avatar

Very interesting, @gailcalled & @Coloma.

Perhaps we’ll get to the bottom of this discrepancy? @Coloma‘s source appears to perhaps be what NPR quoted.

weeveeship's avatar

of course. Turtle.

Mariah's avatar

Yeah I can believe it. Life is constantly amazing me, to the point that nothing really amazes me anymore.

gailcalled's avatar

@weeveeship: There might have been one or two tortoises who lived to be about 250 years old, but that’s the outside limit.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

The oldest sea turtle in the world is about 509 years old but the regular turtles’ age is about 300 years old.”

gailcalled's avatar

^^ Source, please.

“Tortoises generally have the longest lifespans of any animal, and some individuals are known to have lived longer than 150 years. Because of this, they symbolize longevity in some cultures, such as China.

The oldest tortoise ever recorded, and one of the oldest individual animals ever recorded, was Tu’i Malila, which was presented to the Tongan royal family by the British explorer Captain Cook shortly after its birth in 1777. Tu’i Malila remained in the care of the Tongan royal family until its death by natural causes on May 19, 1965, at the age of 188.

The record for the longest-lived vertebrate is exceeded only by one other, a koi named Hanako whose death on July 17, 1977 ended a 226-year life span.” Source

Dan_Lyons's avatar

br /> How old is the oldest known sea turtle?
the oldest sea turtle in the world is about 509 years old but the regular turtles age is about 300 years old.


gailcalled's avatar

Well, Lionel certainly seems to be the ultimate authority.

Coloma's avatar

Well this old organism is off to bed. Very interesting/informative stuff.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

He is surely as authoritative as Wiki.
Besides, I know of an incredibly large Red Sea turtle which swims around the Na Pali coast and my Native Hawaiian friend says it is easily 1000 years old.

Coloma's avatar

@Dan_Lyons Why is Lionel YELLING!? lol

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Apparently his capslock was broken! And I refused to re-type the whole thang.

zenvelo's avatar

And there is a fungus in Oregon which is the larger living organism, and may also be among the oldest, at over 8,000 years….

gailcalled's avatar

@Dan_Lyons: The wikipedia article cites 23 difference sources, several of them from research done and published in scientific journals.

“Besides, I know of an incredibly large Red Sea turtle which swims around the Na Pali coast and my Native Hawaiian friend says it is easily 1000 years old.”

As charming as that may be, it is fanciful anecdote backed up by no data. Being a really big guy does not make him 1000 years old.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

gosh @gailcalled I guess you are right and my kahuna friend is wrong.

And of course wiki is always right and its sources 100% verified by…some other sources who although nameless must be right because they are well, who knows who or what they are.

But a kahuna whose family lineage traces back hundreds of years along with each successive kahuna of his family being familiar with this same turtle is wrong because, well, because you say so?
Hahaha, thanks for the joke.

LostInParadise's avatar

As regards trees, keep in mind that only the outer layer of the tree is alive. The cells in the inner rings are dead, at least as regards the part of the tree that is above ground. I don’t know if the same holds for the roots.

In a way, it would be like treating a coral reef as a single organism and claiming it is millions of years old.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I can believe it but that doesn’t mean I don’t find it fascinating! I often wonder how much the human life expectancy will increase over the next few centuries.

ragingloli's avatar

The longest living organisms are bacteria. Each one alive today is hundreds of millions of years old.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

There is giant subterranean fungi in the northwest forests of the US that are at least that old, according to a National Geographic article I read a few years ago.

As to sentient animals, I’ve encountered 5-foot long, 1,500lb Leatherback sea turtles here in the Caribbean while both diving and walking the beaches. Depending on who you talk to, their lifespan is anywhere from 50 to 400 years. The locals here laugh at the 50-year estimation, as a lot of their folklore is based on the longer of the estimations.

An interesting anecdote: In his later years, the extremely gifted English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, Noël Coward certainly believed in the 400 year lifespan. Always looking for a way to enhance his own lifespan and virility, he would get injections of Leatherback sera derived from some organ in the Leatherback (he also received goat injections for the same reason). He lived hard and fast, and was fanatically private about his lifestyle, but only made it to 74. His longtime secretary and companion published a tell-all, but loving biography once Coward was safely in the grave. He swears that the effects of the injections lengthened both his lifespan and his virility by counteracting the effects of his active lifestyle and estimates Coward would have never made it beyond his forties without them. This isn’t good science, of course, but the intelligence in which Coward lived his life lends a modicum of credence to his choice of medicines. But mostly, it’s just an interesting anecdote about a fascinating man.

ibstubro's avatar

Quahog must have been what NPR referred to. But how is it we’re depending on things that have rings?

gondwanalon's avatar

The DNA within you is part of an unbroken chain of life spanning 2 billion years from the start of eukaryote evolution. DNA is life and also immortal.

Coloma's avatar

I wish my DNA would have manifested as a tree. Life would be much simpler. haha

Dan_Lyons's avatar

I vote for Agave cactus DNA por moi.

antimatter's avatar

Yes I do believe it’s possible for trees.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Ummmm, da Champs tequila! @ibstubro

Coloma's avatar

I’m enjoying some local, oak barrel aged wine right now. Long live Oakstone! lol

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