What's the Oldest Thing Alive Today?
?·?What Is The Oldest Living Thing On Earth? Pinus longaeva: this tree is more than five thousand years old. The oldest mammal still alive is a bowhead whale, and it is years ebrovary.comted Reading Time: 3 mins. The oldest confirmed organism is a bristlecone pine tree in California that's 5, years old. But its possible there are a few other organisms on the planet that are much older. Go To Source Story.
What can a simple, unadorned photograph of a tree teach people how do you know when bananas are ready to pick a heady concept like "deep time" or "year zero? She describes her own work as equal parts art, science and philosophy.
The first two interests developed during her childhood. An undergraduate interest in philosophy added another dimension to her interests. Sussman's art practice really came into focus, however, after a serendipitous moment during a trip to Japan. Days away from deciding to fly home early, she found herself on a remote Japanese island, photographing a 7,year-old tree. About a year what is the oldest organism on earth, Sussman launched the Oldest Living Things in the World project, a series that has since taken her all over the world to photograph everything from 3,year-old lichen to a 9,year-old spruce to an 80,year-old colony of aspen trees.
Though Sussman identifies as an artist, she's also had to earn her scientific bonafides along the way. As she explained, "There isn't an area in the sciences that deals specifically with longevity across species, because that would be too broad.
Ultimately, Sussman's work has not only given ordinary people a way to understand ideas around deep time, but it's also been a portal for connecting scientists, providing them with a platform to consider the intersections between their various specialties.
NEA: The phrase "deep time" comes up quite a bit in your work. Can you explain how that's different from regular time? One way I like to think about it is as a time scale that is just outside of our normal human experience. Sometimes, people refer to geologic time. If you think about the amount of time it took for the continents to break apart, that's geologic time. It's on this scale that's so much deeper than a human life span, so much longer than a human life span.
One example I like to give from the Oldest Living Things series is the example of the map lichens in Greenland. They grow one centimeter every years. And I love that statistic, in part because it's just mind-boggling in and of itself. But if you think about a human life span, we can wrap our heads around the idea of years, but beyond that, we start to get fuzzy.
Think about a time span of years, 1, years or my minimum age for this project: 2, years. Then, that ties into this idea of year zero.
For me, that's the important marker of deep time—in this case, because I really am trying to draw a parallel between human timekeeping and human culture versus the actual, enormous, expansive time that life has existed on Earth, or how long has Earth existed in the solar system.
And how long has the solar system and the universe itself existed? What I'm hoping to do is use this idea of deep time to connect with these time scales through these living organisms in a way that we can have some personal connection to them, to understand them in a living, organic way, as opposed to through complete abstraction.
And this is something I address briefly in the Oldest Living Things book—how religion has played a huge part in deciding what year it was. But my point is more in general—that it's fascinating that we all got together and could agree what year it was, because it really is such an abstraction. In reality, isn't it more like "Happy 4,,? The literal journey was this trip to Japan that I took 10 years ago. It was I had just finished an artist's residency at Cooper Union, and I had a new camera.
I was making landscapes about the relationship between humanity and nature at that point, and they really were about philosophy, too. In Kyoto,[Japan], you think of all of these old temples. But I pull in on the train station, and there's Starbucks and Kinkos, and I'm like, "Oh, this just isn't what I thought it was going to be.
But then something gave me pause, which is that several different people had told me about this tree. It lives on this remote island. They said, "If you're interested in nature, you have to go visit this tree. It's 7, years old. And so I had one of those moments where I gave myself permission to go home, but then just turned around and went in the opposite direction.
It was no small undertaking to get to this tree. First, I had to get to the southernmost point of Kyushu [an island of Japan], so I took the train down there. And then, it was a three- or four-hour ferry ride what is the difference between a drinking problem and alcoholism get to the island of Yakushima.
And then, it's a two-day hike to get to the tree. So I was really committed. It ended up being one of the most rewarding travel experiences I'd ever had, in part because I got befriended by this couple on the ferry ride over, and by the time I reached the other side, I was living at a Japanese family's house for a week.
It was amazing, and they guided me to the tree. People want to hear the story of, "Oh, I saw this tree, and then I got the idea," but that's not actually what happened. Obviously, this experience and seeing the tree had a profound effect on me, but it was over a year later that I got the actual idea for the Oldest Living Things.
I think it took all of that extra additional time percolating because I needed to think through all of these disparate components. And I was sitting in a Thai restaurant in SoHo, having some dinner with some friends, telling them this story that I just told you. And then, that's when I got the idea. So I had my lightbulb moment, but the idea was probably a couple of years in the making, considering the time both before and after the trip.
And it is ongoing. I have rather blithely said phase one is 10 years, and phase two is the rest of my life, but I don't know how that's going to play out. I mean, in part it's just not all that feasible for me to continue in the same way that I have been. I've gone into a lot of personal debt. And this isn't a funded academic project; it's a personal one. But even in my book, I mention that there are a number of organisms that I know about that I haven't visited yet, and there are even more on that list since the time the book came out.
But I'd like to expand the project and open it up and allow more people to be involved in it in some way, and I haven't figured out what that looks like yet. NEA: We see the work, and it's breathtaking. But I don't think we really ever think about everything it takes to make this work. To really get down to the basics, it wasn't like there was an existing list of old things to photograph.
This is an interesting art and science issue; there isn't an area in the sciences that deals specifically with longevity across species because that would be too broad.
At first, I thought I would find an evolutionary biologist who would what is the meaning of interactive computer graphics with me through the whole project. And everyone I spoke to said, "Oh no, we're not qualified. So that meant doing an enormous amount of research and then usually tracking down published scientific papers whenever possible, and then tracking down whoever wrote them and hoping they're still doing active research.
Oftentimes, I would meet with researchers while they were doing their fieldwork. That was the best-case scenario. Although sometimes I would just get a set of directions if nobody could meet me—like, "Here's a map," or "Here's some GPS coordinates; hope you find it," which I did.
It's a 6x7 medium-format film camera. It has been with me through the entire project and has been to every continent. Most of the work is shot on that, but when I was shooting underwater, I used a digital camera in an underwater housing, and the only other thing that's digital is the digital optical microscopy.
When I made images of the Siberian actinobacteria, that's what makes the sky blue wikipedia digital image made on a microscope.
NEA: What, particularly with this project, is the question that you think you're answering, or the story that you're telling? I'd say there's not one story: there are layers and layers of stories. And there are different ways that different people will enter into it. As an individual in the audience, you're going to bring a different set of experiences, whether that's "I live in or have been to Namibia, so I'm familiar with the Welwitschia plant," or the Welwitschia is something you've never seen before and it's this wild-looking thing in a harsh desert, and that's expanded your experience of what it can mean to endure.
But there are a how to make a typing text gif of themes throughout the project.
One is obviously about the environment—sustainability in a way that I hope doesn't hit people over the head. It's not yelling at you; it's just allowing you to observe something differently and put the pieces together yourself.
In part, it's about the interconnectedness. These organisms live on every continent, which even I was not expecting when I first started the project, so learning that there's 5,year-old moss on Antarctica was a big surprise.
A lot what did people drink in medieval times these organisms live in very extreme environments, all sorts of places where we think life shouldn't survive—let alone thrive. I think we can't help but connect this perseverance—or underdog stories, even—to our own lives.
I encourage this sort of anthropomorphizing of these organisms and their stories because I think that's what makes them relatable. So, back to the idea of the importance of the climate issues. We hear these things like carbon-dioxide levels are rising. You hear " parts per million," and it doesn't really register what that means. But when you can look at this organism and say, "Wow, this spruce tree has been living on this mountainside for 9, years and, in the past 50, got this spindly trunk in the center because it got warmer at the top of this mountainside," there's something that's a very literal depiction of climate change happening right in front of you.
It's observable. So I hope that that's going to be a way that people can connect to that as an issue. I also hope the audience can internalize some of these messages—the values in the perseverance, the living through adversity that these organisms embody.
There are a lot of positive messages to be gleaned from these long-lived organisms. They tend to grow very slowly. They're not very flashy. The oldest ones tend to be the least attractive.
There are exceptions what is the oldest organism on earth all of the rules, but it's a great way to, I think, personalize something that otherwise, in terms of the numbers and the science, can be so abstract that we just don't take them in. So I'm trying to create a more personal way to connect.
And that's also why I do a fair amount of writing in the book about my personal experiences and sometimes share some very personal things—because, again, I want to draw some attention to the fact that it's difficult to stay in deep time because we are people.
?·?The estimates are prone to error but according to Dr Magalhaes, sponges in Antarctica do grow very slowly because of the cold, which fits the model of slow-growing creatures having longer life Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins. ?·?The Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) is a species of pine tree. It is found in the American West, mostly in Utah, Nevada, and California. One of these trees has been measured to be 5, years old! That makes it the longest living non-clonal organism on Earth. The zircon crystals from Australia’s Jack Hills are believed to be the oldest thing ever discovered on Earth. Researchers have dated the crystals to about billion years ago, just million years after the Earth formed. The zircons provide insight into what the early conditions on Earth were like. What are the oldest organisms?
What a great question! You may have heard that the oldest human lived to be years old. But that amount of time only makes a small fraction of the lifespan of some other living things. Identifying the oldest organism gets a bit complicated when we start to think about what we consider an individual organism.
An individual is hard to define because some organisms make up clonal colonies. In clonal colonies, all individuals are part of or come from the same ancestral individual. For example, some mushrooms you see separately above ground are part of the same network underground.
They may grow, reproduce, and appear to die, but a young mushroom nearby shares the exact same genes and is technically the same organism. So, getting back to the question One of these trees has been measured to be 5, years old! That makes it the longest living non-clonal organism on Earth. However, some clonal organisms are known to have lifespans many times longer than that.
An old stand of quaking aspen trees in Utah is actually one clonal male organism. All of the above-ground trees sprout from the same root system and so share the same genes. While each individual stem or what you'd call the tree lives an average of years, the root system is estimated to be 80, years old.
So technically, maybe the oldest living organism we know of is 80, years old. Now, there is one other major way we could look at this question. What about eggs, seeds , or spores? These beginning stages of an organism can sometimes stay dormant like a long pause for months or years.
Even in that case though, we'd still consider them alive, right? Would that change if they stayed dormant for millions of years? Some very old bacterial spores were in the gut of an extinct bee that was found in amber dating back to 25 to 40 million years ago. Spores are cells made during asexual reproduction. Even without being fertilized, they can develop into a new organism with the same genes as the organism that produced them.
Spores often allow certain organisms to live through challenging conditions and regrow once conditions are more favorable. The bacteria from the bee gut were over 25 million years old, but scientists were able to get the spores to produce bacteria. So you see, the oldest organism isn't exactly an easy label to assign.
It depends on what you consider an individual or what you consider "living. I hope that answers your question! Have a different answer or more to add to this one? Send it to us. What is the oldest living thing on Earth?.
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