How big can a land animal get

Sloths, bowhead sharks, jellyfishThe oldest Animals the World: 400 Years and still older

Paula is a sloth - and 50 years old. A record! Paula is the oldest sloth in the world. But there are animals that are getting much, much older: whales, sharks and jellyfish, for example. One of them is even immortal.

In the wild, sloths live to be around 15 to 30 years old. Paula has been hanging in the tree for over 50 years. The reason for this: She lives in captivity - in the Halle mountain zoo - and is obviously well cared for.

Sloths have an extremely low metabolism, as sloth keeper Sascha Tütsch explains: The pulse is slow and so is digestion. "You can store your urine and feces for seven to nine days," says the zookeeper. Because they hang around a lot, sleep and take everything very slowly, they can get quite old.

Bowhead whale can live for over 200 years

But that is nothing compared to other animals. Among mammals, for example, bowhead whales are ahead of the pack when it comes to life expectancy. A tissue sample was taken from the oldest specimen ever caught and examined by microbiologists. And it came out: The animal was 211 years old.

"211 years! If the bowhead whale had been caught today, it would have been born in 1808!"
Martin Krinner, Deutschlandfunk Nova reporter

The Greenland whale is a real youngster compared to the Greenland Shark: In 2016, scientists from Denmark examined several Greenland Sharks and found that the oldest specimen was almost 400 years old.

Heino Fock from the Thünen Institute of Sea Fisheries says it fills him with humility when he catches a Greenland Shark: "When we catch the animal, it is always an experience of humility for us scientists, too. That we have things here that we cannot easily explain. "

However, the Greenland Shark is still not the longest-lived animal in the world. It is topped by a giant sponge that can live to be more than 10,000 years old: It has the scientific name Scolymastra joubini, as Deutschlandfunk-Nova biologist Mario Ludwig explains.

"This old age was determined on the basis of its oxygen consumption, because, unlike trees, sponges do not have annual rings that you can look at."
Mario Ludwig, Deutschlandfunk Nova biologist

The sponge is about two meters tall and has a vase-like shape. And he lives on the ocean floor in Antarctica. You determined your age by your oxygen consumption.

A tiny jellyfish outlives us all

However, the absolute front runner among the oldest animals in the world is a jellyfish with the name Turritopsis dohrnii, only around three to four millimeters in size. It lives in the Mediterranean and is virtually immortal - provided it is not eaten or washed ashore.

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Italian scientists have found that the life of this jellyfish goes on and on and on. Because it has a great trick up its sleeve: "When it gets old and its cells are slowly getting old and can no longer perform their tasks, then they simply take a special makeover," says Mario Ludwig. The jellyfish sinks to the sea floor and rejuvenates itself. Its cells regenerate - so that the "old" jellyfish becomes a "young" jellyfish again.