The idea of longevity has for long fascinated mankind. What if we could live a few hundred years? Wouldn’t it be nice? While that may seem just a fantasy for us, there is indeed an animal that can live 1000 times longer than a human: a kind of sponge discovered more than a century ago!
According to the WHO, the average life expectancy of the human being was 72 years in 2016, although this number can vary greatly from one country to another. In the animal kingdom, many species live longer than us. Examples include tuatara (200 years old), lamellibrachia (250 years old), tortoises (250 years old) and some shells sometimes even 300 years old. However, this enviable longevity does not really make the weight compared to that of the sponges.
We may forget it a little too often, but sponges are animals, despite the fact that they were considered as plants for a very long time. Indeed, a species of sponge can live up to 11,000 years, namely the Monorhaphis chuni, according to a US study published in the journal Aging Research Reviews in 2014.
This sponge was found during the scientific expedition of Valdivia, organized and financed by the German Empire between 1898 and 1899. The explorers had dredged the seabed in East Africa to more than 1500 meters deep!
Capable of reaching 3 meters in length, the sponge Monorhaphis chuni can be found in France, in the maritime zone of New Caledonia. The animal belongs to the group of “glass sponges” whose skeleton is silicon and has an atypical shape, as shown in the picture above.
Moreover, in their study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in 2017, Chinese and German researchers have speculated that these sponges – because of their longevity – are true “palaeoclimatic records”.
In terms of longevity, there is even better! Indeed, some years ago, Italian researchers demonstrated that there were “immortal” species of jellyfish: turritopsis nutricula and turritopsis dohrnii. These animals would find the source of their durability in their cell transdifferentiation capacity.