OLD­EST AN­I­MAL

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild News -

There are sev­eral con­tenders for the ti­tle of long­est-lived an­i­mal on Earth. Gi­ant tor­toises, Green­land sharks and bow­head whales are all in the run­ning. And com­ing up on the in­side is a tube­worm that lives at depths of 3km in the Gulf of Mex­ico.

Noth­ing is straight­for­ward at such depths, and age­ing a tube­worm is no ex­cep­tion. But bi­ol­o­gists led by Alanna Durkin of Tem­ple Univer­sity, USA, have risen to the chal­lenge. By mea­sur­ing how much worms grow in one year, they have es­ti­mated that the largest spec­i­mens – which stretch to over half a me­tre – are more than 300 years old.

That doesn’t beat the Green­land shark, which can live to more than 400, or the ocean qua­hog, a marine clam that reaches at least 507. But there is still ev­ery­thing to play for. Af­ter all, there’s a lot of deep ocean still to ex­plore.

“There may be large Es­carpia lam­i­nata tube­worms alive in na­ture that live even longer,” ven­tures Durkin.

Could Es­carpia lam­i­nata be the old­est an­i­mal?

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