What is the world’s oldest living organism?



  1. 0 Votes

    It’s a bit of a tricky question, Syenya, as scientists are pretty contentious about the oldest living organisms out there. Take the (allegedly) 250 million year-old bacteria Bacillus permians as an example. When it was discovered in ancient sea salt below Carlsbad, New Mexico in 1999, B. permians was inside a hard-shelled spore, in a state of “suspended animation.” Some scientists argue that the bacteria is too similar to modern bacteria to actually be that old, that the sample was somehow contaminated, but these claims are still in dispute.

    If B. premians loses its title as world’s oldest living organism, the next in line would be Bacillus sphaericus, a 40 million year-old bacteria found inside the stomach of a bee encased in amber. Think Jurassic Park, but much smaller.

  2. 0 Votes

    There is some debate about the world’s oldest living organism. Bristlecone pines, a tree native to the Western United States, are considered the world’s oldest continuously standing tree. The oldest bristlecone pine, found in California’s White Mountains, is 5,000 years old. In 2004, however, a 13-foot Norway Spruce tree in Sweden was discovered that seems to have taken the title of oldest living organism. The tree’s root system has been growing for 9,550 years. The visible part of the tree is not yet ancient, but the root system started growing at the end of the last Ice Age. The stems and trunks of the spruce have a lifespan of approximately 600 years.

    • knn
      0 Votes

      I should clarify my answer to say that the bristlecone pines are the world’s oldest CONTINUOUSLY living organisms (the bacteria, while 250 million years old, was revived from ‘suspended animation.’)

  3. 0 Votes

    previous answers:

  4. 0 Votes

    It also depends on whether you’re including clonal colonies (organisms which clone themselves, with the clones continuing to replace one another through the ages). For instance, the spruce tree mentioned in the second answer above is a clonal organism. Each clone lives to around 600 years before dying and being replaced by a new clone.

    Methuselah, the approximately 5,000 year old bristle cone pine mentioned above, was featured in the New York Times a few years ago; after being planted by a tree farmer, a dozen of Methuselah’s seeds sprouted.

    Methuselah Grove:

  5. 0 Votes

    For non-microscopic organisms, there was a tree was found in 2008 in Sweden that was estimated to be 9,500 years old. Narrowing this down to animals, an Antarctic Sponge was estimated to be 1,550 years old. The oldest mammal was a 226 year old Bowhead Whale.

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