Researchers from Temple University have discovered that a species of tubeworm living deep in the Gulf of Mexico can live more than 250 years, with some even thriving into three centuries.
A creature residing thousands of feet beneath the ocean’s surface could be one of the longest-living animals on Earth, after scientists discovered it can survive for more than 250 years.
By measuring the growth rates of large tubeworms from the cold, dark waters of the Gulf of Mexico, researchers found that members of one species live far longer than previously estimated, with some possibly thriving for upwards of three centuries.
These tubeworms live in cold seeps up to 3,300 meters (10,826 feet) deep, where hydrocarbon-rich fluids leak out of cracks in the seafloor.
By measuring the growth rates of large tubeworms from the cold, dark waters of the Gulf of Mexico, researchers found that members of the species Escarpia laminata live far longer than previously estimated, with some thriving for upwards of three centuries
Galapagos giant tortoise - the longest living was 177
Bowhead whale - average lifespan of 200 years
Greenland shark - life expectancy of at least 272 years
Escarpia laminata (tubeworm) - more than 250 years, some possibly stretching beyond 300
Ocean quahog - some collected specimens have been calculated to be more than 400 years old, with one estimated to have lived 507 years
Black coral - Those known as Antipatharia, these coral found in the Gulf of Mexico may live more than 2000 years while the those from the genus Leiopathes are thought to lived for around 4,265 years
In the study led by researchers from Temple University, the team collected and marked 356 tubeworms found at different locations in the Gulf of Mexico.
Then, they measured how much they grew over the course of a year.
The researchers were investigating the longevity of a species named Escarpia laminata, which lives between 1,000 meters and 3,300 meters deep.
Other tubeworms found in shallower waters are known to live well beyond 100 years, with Lamellibrachia luymesi even estimated to live up to 250 years.
Using this technique, which was previously found to predict the age of tubeworms, the researchers determined an E. laminata tubeworm measuring fifty centimeters (20 inches) long is roughly 202 years old.
And, larger individuals were found to live for more than 250 years.
The team also extended their model to include death rates as well as recruitment rates, to account for the population.
According to the researchers, the discovery makes their lifespan much longer than other species, including Lamellibrachia luymesi and Seepiophila jonesi.
Based on universal scaling laws, which depend on body size and ambient temperature, the researchers also say it’s beyond the previous estimates for this species.
These creatures live in regions where hydrogen sulphide, methane, and other hydrocarbon-rich fluids seep from the vents in the seafloor.
‘At more than 250 years old, Escarpia laminata achieves a lifespan that exceeds other longevity records,’ says lead author Alanna Durkin.
Researchers say the findings support the longevity theory, which argues that natural selection allows for individuals age more slowly and continue to reproduce when they lack external threats. The longest lived mammal, the bowhead whale, has been known to live 211 years
‘Given the uncertainty associated with estimating the ages of the longest individuals, there may be large Escarpia laminata tubeworms alive in nature that live even longer.’
The researchers say the findings support the longevity theory, which argues that natural selection allows for individuals age more slowly and continue to reproduce when they lack external threats.
On land, the longest-lived vertebrate was a 177-year-old Galapagos giant tortoise, while bowhead whales living 211 years are recorded as the longest-lived mammal overall.
But, the oldest non-colonial animal known to date is something much smaller.
According to the expert, a marine clam Arctica islandica is thought to have lived to 507 years old.Read more at dailymail.co.uk