World’s Oldest Land-Dwelling Animal Celebrates 191st Birthday

Jonathan is an individual from the Seychelles giant tortoise family, currently living on the island of Saint Helena (an overseas territory of the UK, located in the South Atlantic Ocean). This giant “turtle” just officially celebrated his 191st birthday on December 7.

“Mr. Turtle” Jonathan celebrates his 191st birthday, but his real age could be over 200 (Photo: SHT).

In fact, there are no official documents that can prove Jonathan’s birth date, but oral information suggests that Jonathan was born around 1832.

This “turtle” was brought to the island of Saint Helena in 1882, when he was 50 years old, as a gift from Sir William Gray-Wilson, a famous businessman and colonial administrator, to British Royal.

According to the British Museum in London, a photo of Jonathan taken between 1882 and 1886 shows the turtle fully grown, so it is likely that Jonathan’s actual age may even be older than the turtle. No. 191.

Advanced age has caused Jonathan the turtle to go blind and lose his sense of smell, but this “old turtle”‘s hearing is still very good. Currently, Jonathan the turtle receives special care from the staff, feeding him once a week to ensure he receives enough energy. This “turtle’s” favorite foods include cabbage, cucumbers and carrots.

Jonathan is living on Saint Helena island with two other Seychelles giant tortoises, including Emma (female) and Fred (male).

Joe Hollins, a veterinarian who has cared for Jonathan for many years, said that despite his age, Jonathan is still full of energy and his mood changes with the weather.

Một hình ảnh chụp "cụ rùa" Jonathan (trái) và một cá thể rùa khổng lồ khác vào năm 1886 (Ảnh: Public domain).
An image of “old turtle” Jonathan (left) and another giant turtle in 1886 (Photo: Public domain).

“On warm weather days, Jonathan will sunbathe, sticking his long neck and legs completely out of his shell to absorb the sunlight. When the weather is colder, Jonathan likes to bury himself in crushed leaves or dust grass and stay there all day”, Joe Hollins shared.

“Despite his age, Jonathan still has a very strong sexual desire and often has sex with Emma, sometimes even with Fred,” added Dr. Joe Hollins.

On January 12, 2022, the Guinness Book of Records awarded Jonathan the record of “world’s longest-lived terrestrial animal”. This record previously belonged to Tu’i Malila, an individual of the Radiated Turtle family (Astrochelys radiata), a turtle endemic to Madagascar. Tu’i Malila lived to be 188 years old, before dying in 1965.

To date, scientists still do not fully understand why tortoises like Jonathan or Tu’i Malila can live so long. The only explanation for this is because tortoises have the ability to destroy and regenerate damaged cells, helping to fight cell damage as they age.

Jonathan’s longevity may be unmatched on land, but there are animals that live longer in water. For example, the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) has a minimum lifespan of up to 272 years; or Hydra, a group of small jellyfish-like invertebrates that can continuously regenerate cells, making them nearly immortal.

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