The Oldest Living Things In The World
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The Oldest Living Things In The World

Jean Calment lived to be 122, the oldest human
being we know of… when she was 13, she met Vincent Van Gogh. By the time she died, we
had the internet. But even the longest human life is nothing
to this tree. This guy was just a sapling around the beginning of the Mayan calendar.
By the time Stonehenge had been constructed, he was already hundreds of years old. Today,
you can take a picture of this still-living bristlecone pine with your iPhone. Earth is full of really old things. Most of
them are dead. But not all of them. We live alongside a shadow universe, where age is
measured in thousands of years, and where organisms of every shape and size redefine
what it means to live. For nearly a decade, artist and photographer
Rachel Sussman has been seeking out these organisms all over the world. Scientists have yet to solve the mystery of
how Bristlecones and other long-living organisms get to be so old, and we have no idea how
many of nature’s senior citizens remain undiscovered. Even their ages are often estimates What we do know is most of them are plants. You only have to look at one baobab to realize
that longevity is not a beauty contest. Old things are often ugly, because every living
thing has a finite amount of energy with which to grow, reproduce, and do… LIFE stuff.
In other words, if you’ve got limited resources, you’re better off taking care of your kids
than fixing up the house. Pando, an 80,000 year-old forest of quaking
aspen, is really 47,000 or so genetically identical trees, one single organism growing
from the same roots. Instead of putting your genetically diverse eggs in one basket, many
of Earth’s oldest living things use this kind of clonal strategy to survive. We can take a lesson from the trees: survival
takes cooperation. Many of Earth’s oldest residents are found
in places where you or I wouldn’t last a day—let alone 2,000 years. It takes these map lichens, from frigid Greenland,
a century to grow a single centimeter. And in the Mojave desert, yucca and creosote bushes
may go two years without rain. Even though some parts of the Atacama desert
have been without rain since records began, the llareta, a relative of parsley, survives. This black coral… this barrel sponge, the
oldest animal on Earth… or this meadow of sea grass. Who knows how many long-living species might
Earth’s unexplored oceans hold? Even for the longest living, death can happen
in an instant. The Senator, one of the oldest cypress trees
in the world, burned to the ground in 2012, thanks to two rather young humans who lit
a fire in its hollow trunk. This Swedish spruce survived as a low shrub
for 9,500 years, but as this mountaintop climate has become warmer, a single trunk has risen
above the rest. We don’t yet know the effects of our changing
climate, or whether these ancient species will be able to adapt. But we can hope. They’ve
proven that they know a thing or two about survival. These senior species might also hold clues
to how life started in the first place. In 2007, those map lichens survived atmospheric
re-entry on a simulated meteorite. Lichen or not, life could have arrived from another
planet, at least in theory. And billions of years ago, these stromatolites,
ancient communities of photosynthetic bacteria that are equal parts biology and geology,
may have exhaled the first breaths of life-giving oxygen. Finally, these bacteria take the cake for
oldest living thing in the world. Buried in Siberian permafrost, not growing or dividing,
they’re not in suspended animation. They’ve been actively repairing their cells
for half a million years. What do you think they’re waiting for? Like it or not, most of us live for the moment,
for the day, or the month. Look back at your life. Think of everything that you’ve forgotten.
How aware are we of passing years, or decades? Without an awareness of the past, and our
connection to it, we are doomed to repeat today’s problems tomorrow. Maybe by looking
wide-eyed into deep time, we can understand what it really means to live beyond this blink
of an eye. Stay Curious. Special thanks to Rachel Sussman, whose decade-long
journey to photograph Earth’s most ancient living things is chronicled in her book, The
Oldest Living Things In The World. Link in the description . . . it’s
just . . . wow.

100 thoughts on “The Oldest Living Things In The World

  1. Good, however the term "deep time" refers to the 4.5 billion year age of earth, not to plant species living for thousands of years.

  2. I strongly disagree with the "beauty" statement.
    These are the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Look at what life has thrown at them? And yet they are still alive and kicking.

  3. I was expecting a usual countdown of the oldest organisms but instead got an introspective lecture on life. thanks.

  4. Of course none of these plants have a Driver's License, so we really don't know how old anything in this video really are.

  5. Is it too much to ask, if you're going to mention the Mayan Calendar, can you at least use an image of a Mayan calendar? The one you showed was Aztec.

  6. Actually, if you were born in the Bible belt, you would know that Adam was the oldest living man. ๐Ÿ™

  7. Presented in the same manner as a religion…no proof just "estimates" and a BUNCH of ideas we are expected to have faith in without anyway to prove true or false. These estimates are no easier to prove than, does God exist? Science of the formation of the earth and our future over 100 yrs from now have a wonderful and convenient truth….never will be able to prove any of it. Will Pluto turn into a planet again???

  8. Stromatolites are the most ancient species on Earth. There may have been a time when only stramatolites existed on Earth for 2,000,000,000 years.

  9. They found this dead turtle near Massachusetts off the shore of the Atlantic Ocean.
    Scientists said that the turtle was around 160 yrs old.

  10. This is all a lie…the earth is only 5000 years old…and flat. And Santa and big foot leave the chocolate easter eggs under my festivus pole.

  11. The oldest living things are Cosmo and Wanda for the fairly odd parents
    If you watched the show before theyโ€™ve been around before the modern human

  12. Thats not the mayan calender its the aztec and is one of the most impresive artefacts of their civilization

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