Who is the Oldest?- Pando

I’m revisiting a subject that I wrote about a few months ago.

The Google Search term is “longest living organisms”. I’m not sure why I find this so interesting. Part of it stems from the remarkable possibility that there may be “immortal” organisms. This has massive theological ramifications, perhaps even an exception to basics laws of physics.

The Wikipedia article from the Google research is very interesting. The new piece of information for me is the grove of Aspens in south central Utah, near Fish Lake. It is a clonal organism, meaning that there is one central root system, providing stems, or shoots, that are exactly the same genetically. We are used to seeing this in BlackBerry bushes, or various ivy bushes. In trees we tend to known about trees reproducing individually from fertilized seeds.

The grove of Aspens in Utah appear to be individual trees, but they are not. They are all connected by a massive root system, covering about 106 acres, and weighing 6,600 tons. Clearly much heavier than a family of Blue Whales. The next surprising new piece of information is that it is estimated to be 100,000 years old, its a male, with the name of Pando! What?

So my updated list of the oldest known organisms is

1. 100,000- Pando, a male clonal Aspen grove, Utah

2. 10,000 to 80,000- Posidonia Oceania, a clonal sea grass in the Mediterranean Sea. (Some say it may be 200,000 years old)

3. 43,000- Lornatia tasmanic in Tasmania, a clonal shrub with no fruits or seeds, and has over 600 genetically exact individual plants.

4. 13,000- The Jurupa Oak Colony in Riverside County, California. A clonal grove of oak that only grows after a wildfire, the burned branches sprout new stems.

5. 13,000- a box huckleberry bush in Pennsylvania.

6. 13,000- Eucalptus recurve clones in Australia.

7. 11,700- Larrea tridentata, is a creosote bush named King Clone in the Mojave Desert, California

8. 9,500- Old Tjikko, a clonal Norway spruce in Sweden

9. 2,400 – 8,500 Humongous Fungus,a single specimen of clonal honey mushroom (Armillaria ostoyae)found in Oregon, covering 3.4 square miles.

10. 5,068- A Great Basin Bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) is the oldest non-clonal tree. Secret location in California/Nevada/Utah.

One unique addition is a Judean Date Palm Tree, that came from a preserved 2,000 year old seed. The tree is in Israel and is now producing pollen.

And finally, during the 1990s, Raul Cano, a microbiologist at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, revived yeast trapped in amber for 25 million years. Cano went on to found a brewery and crafted an “amber ale” with a 45-million-year-old variant of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. His work inspired the movie Jurassic Park.

I don’t know where the immortal creatures fit. If the mortality rate of a species does not increase after maturity, the species does not age and is said to be biologically immortal. Many examples exist of plants and animals for which the mortality rate actually decreases with age, for all or part of the lifecycle.

If the mortality rate remains constant, the rate determines the mean lifespan. The lifespan can be long or short, though the species technically “does not age”.

• Hydra species were observed for four years without any increase in mortality rate.

Other species have been observed to regress to a larval state and regrow into adults multiple times.

• The hydrozoan species Turritopsis dohrnii (formerly Turritopsis nutricula) is capable of cycling from a mature adult stage to an immature polyp stage and back again. This means no natural limit to its lifespan is known. However, no single specimen has been observed for any extended period, and estimating the age of a specimen is not possible by any known means.

• At least one hydrozoan (Laodicea undulata and one scyphozoan (Aurelia sp.1) can also revert from medusa stage into polyp stage.

• The larvae of skin beetles undergo a degree of “reversed development” when starved, and later grow back to the previously attained level of maturity. The cycle can be repeated many times.

The idea of doing a Benjamin Button, going back to baby, was a movie idea. I didn’t know it really existed.

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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