Now that’s Old

Today I have not really done interesting IT stuff, but I did happen to see a artical on long lived organism.

To put this in to prespective the oldest person on recourd is a lady by the name of Jeanne Calement who passed away aged 122 in 1997. However compared to other things this is hardly being born..

Animals don’t do so well in terms of long lives, the oldest recorded tortoise is in the region of 175 years and the oldest clam was though to be around 400 at the time if its death (in a lab as it was being measured). For the real old stuff you need to look at plants and bacteria.

I am sure you have heard of the Bristlecone pines, some of which are known to be over 5000 year in age.

Clonal plants, where a single plant self clones to produce a never ending and unbroken chain of life, have been found that a several tens of thousands of years old. In these cases the original plant growth will be long dead, but they still form some impressive stats.

One in particular is an underground forest in Africa, these trees are completely buried with only the tips of there branches above the soil. Some of these clonal species are over 13,000 years.

A Honey Mushroom in eastern Oragon US is not only 2,500 years old, but is also over 8 square kilometres making it one of the largest organism alive at 605 tons.

But this pales next to Pando (meaning I spread), this is a single Quaking Aspen in Utah USA. with 47,000 stems (each looks like a single tree) connected via one gigantic root system, this single organism is thought to weight in at over 6000 tons. Estimate of age put it at between 80,000 and 1million years old. There is debate over if it is still truly one organism but what ever it is one mammoth tree..

But for the oldest single organism that is no a clone of an original and has been living continuously for its life, Bacterium are where you need to look. You will find some claims of 250 million year old bacteria, but what they mean is spores that have been in a dormant state for 99.99999% of that time, which it really cheating a bit.

But the siberian actinobacteria, that live in permafrost have been shown not only to be 500,000 years old, but also activate in DNA repair, there is even some evidence of them metobilising nutrients from there surroundings.

To think of it another way, these individual bacteria have lived in the ice covering the permafrost of Siberia, when humans first started to venture out of Africa and move across Europe to eventually spread ourselves all over the world. These permafrosts are now melting and as they do these bacteria will die…

View The Oldest Living Things in the World in a larger map

The natural world is a crazy place, maybe next time I will tell you about how it is possible for a bumble bee to fly, it puzzled scientists for years!

Enjoy the weekend