I enjoyed being entertained by Paul McCartney at Glastonbury a while ago, the eldest headliner ever, being 80 years old and still going strong! Sadly, his musical pal, John Lennon, never lived to see such a good age – life can be short for some.
This got me pondering, could we gain a longer lifespan if we were to become a different creature?
Now if we’re looking for long life, then we wouldn’t want to be a Mayfly – this poor soul is the shortest living creature in the world – it has but a mere 24 hours in which to emerge, find a mate and lay eggs – it doesn’t even have a mouth, because it has no time to eat!
What about a butterfly then? Not a good choice either, as both the Copper and Small Blue butterflies, each have only a few days of life – in that time they must achieve finding that special someone with which to further the next generation before departing this world. We’d do a bit better if we were migrating Monarchs or Brimstones, but still, we would only get to enjoy a year at most….
OK then, what about taking to the air as a bird? Well, hovering around must take its toll on you, because the little ruby-throated hummingbird has the shortest time of any bird, living on average for 2 years. Then again, the blackbirds, blue tits and bullfinches in the garden only achieve something similar – fly high, die young….
Let’s go under the water in the search of some staying power; but it seems you can’t necessarily expect to be swimming around too long either, with the dwarf pigmy goby fish having a fleeting two months to tick off that bucket list before it goes down to Davy Jones’ locker….
Would a slower pace of life achieve more years? Certain reptiles live slow, but still die young, with the Panther Chameleon being given a mere year in which to live out its brief existence – it doesn’t even get to see the kids born before it has to shuffle off its mortal coil…
I’m now thinking that surely mammals will get to live longer? Maybe not, with the Mulller’s Giant Sunda rat squeaking in a miniscule six months of existence.
Even going down to the microscopic world fails to escape the premature coming of the grim reaper – bacteria, on average, live around 12 hours before they divide to create new individuals.
So far, not so good – but surely we can do better?
We could be as happy as a clam, becoming a quahog – such a mollusc, called Ming, is believed to have lived for 507 years (having been found on the Icelandic coast some 15 years ago) and being proclaimed the world’s oldest living creature.
It seems the cold sea is the place to be for longevity, as the longest-lived mammal is also resident here – the bowhead whale is believed to achieve over 200 years in this world – apparently living in this cool water slows the metabolism, placing less stress on body tissues – now we’re getting somewhere!
If you’d prefer somewhere warmer and dryer to live out your days though, then your best bet would be a giant tortoise. The current senior citizen here is Jonathan, who’s clocked up an impressive 183 years of age. He can attribute his lengthy existence to his healthy diet of greens and an ability to take things real easy… A lesson for us all perhaps?
Whilst that’s all very impressive, it can be beaten! What would you say to 5,000 years? You’d have to become a tree to enjoy this amount of time – a great basin bristlecone pine to be precise. These hardy plants have clung to life on a mountain side, enduring everything thrown at them by the elements…although I reckon it might be a bit lonely, stuck up there for all that time, unable to move..?
When all’s said and done, maybe it’s not how much time you get, but rather how you spend it…. As Messrs McCartney and Lennon sang, “Ob la de, ob la da…Life goes on… “