Top 10 Bizarre Animals Live Forever That Are Secretly Immortal
While death's cold, bony fingers will inevitably reach all creatures, Mother Nature has imbued a few of her quirkier children with resilient biology seemingly predisposed to keep mortality at bay. Tapping into their secrets has long been a quest for scientists, not least because the thought of our minds flickering out one day continues to bother most people.
Here, in no particular order, are five animals who may just hold to clues to unlocking everlasting life:
1. Water Bear
Contrary to the name of the species, the water bear isn’t a big brown bear that swims like a fish. Also known as a tardigrade, it’s actually a centipede-looking water-based microorganism that was given the funny nickname water bear because scientists say it “moves as smoothly as a bear.”
An impressive attribute of the tardigrade is that it can adapt to any situation, including imminent danger. During instances of self-preservation, it stops its metabolism process and promptly dries out. Once its environment stabilizes, it returns to normal form. One of the most resilient species by far, their adaptation skills enable them to survive in any environment they’re placed in, whether at -273 Celsius temperatures, at which point they take on a frozen form; boiling water; radiation; and outer space!
Like tortoises, the shellfish are negligibly senescent. But unlike Earth's other creatures, they grow more fertile with age.
Lobsters continue to grow in size, too: A select group of lobsters produce a remarkable amount of telomerase, an enzyme that helps them grow new, larger shells throughout their lifetime, even as they approach 50 or 60.
Like the other aforementioned creatures, scientists think understanding why their cells are resistant to the rigors of age could help us develop cures for cancer and other ailments plaguing the elderly.
3. Backward-aging jellyfish
A tiny variety of jellyfish known as Turritopsis doohmii, or more commonly, the immortal jellyfish, has found a way to cheat death by actually reversing its aging process, according to National Geographic. If the jellyfish is injured or sick, it returns to its polyp stage over a three-day period, transforming its cells into a younger state that will eventually grow into adulthood all over again.
Along with having organs that are remarkably stubborn to the advance of time, researchers also discovered that a turtle's heart didn't always beat in response to nerve impulses and, in fact, sometimes didn't need to beat at all -- in other words, it looks like turtles are able to just turn their own fucking heart off if they don't need it. This means that you could realistically tear out a turtle's heart and show it to it like in that scene from Indiana Jones ... only to have it live long enough to watch you bleed to death from the resulting turtle bite wounds.
This research has led scientists to believe that turtles are biologically immortal -- but wait, don't they die all the time? Of course they do, otherwise we'd be swimming in turtles, but the weird thing is, they never seem to die of old age. It's always a disease, or a falling boulder, or Master Shredder.
Combine this with the fact they can breed and lay eggs until the day they drop dead and that means that, technically, a turtle can live and have sex forever. And we think we're the dominant species of this planet?
5. Regenerating flatworms
These creepy crawlers, also known as planarian worms, are famous for their regeneration abilities, where a worm cut across or lengthwise can form two separate worms. This apparently limitless regeneration also applies to aging and damaged tissue, allowing the worms to cheat death indefinitely, according to a study at the University of Nottingham.
6. The naked mole rat
Biologists love the subterranean rodent, and not for its handsome face — with its stretchy skin, wispy hairs, and squinty eyes bordering on blindness, the naked mole rat isn't much to look at. But the peculiar animals are incredibly resistant to disease and can live for well over 30 years, a ten-fold increase from other rodents.
A study published this week in the journal Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences found that a chemical inside the mole rat's RNA gives its cellular protein factories "the kind of precision that would be the envy of German automotive engineers," says Geoffrey Mohan at the Los Angeles Times. That means their cells are less prone to errors as they get older, making mole rats far less susceptible to age-related diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's. God loves ugly, indeed.
Who would have thought that a clam could live up to more than 500 years? And the only reason that one particular clam died was that scientists accidentally killed it while studying the creature. It was approximately 507 years old and would have probably lived even longer, if human intervention didn’t happen. Clams’ properties consist of extremely slow cell replacement, which means they can stay in a stable, mature state under the sea for a good 150 years.
8. Bowhead Whales
The longest living mammal on earth has survived to 211 years. The bowhead whale is a survivor through and through because when one whale was killed in 2007, marine experts found that there was a harpoon stuck in its blubber. And the harpoon dated back 130 years! So apparently, that harpoon didn’t do any damage to the massive creature in the least.
9. Glass Sponges
You may not think of sea sponges as animals, but that's how people who know more than you classify them; they're just very simple ones that happen to look like the stuff you use to wash your dishes. One not particularly sponge-y looking one is the Hexactinellid or glass sponge, which has a rigid skeleton, hence its nickname. We think a better name would be "the fucking Highlanders of the sea," because that's exactly what they are.
Seriously, how long do you think a sea sponge can live? A hundred years? Five hundred? A thousand? Try over 10,000.
Yeah, glass sponges may not seem very impressive at first glance, but that quickly changes once you find out there are specimens alive today that are older than human civilization -- these things are estimated to live up to 15,000 years, making them the oldest living animals on the planet.
It’s one of the oldest species that still survives today, dating back to the earth’s original continent, Pangaea. The lungfish is one of the only sea creatures that can live outside of water when such instances as a drought happens. They bury themselves deeply under the sand and secrete a mucous-like substance to cocoon their bodies, giving them the necessary hydration for them to live. So in other words, they can stay buried alive for long periods of time, until they make their way back to water.