The Oldest Living Things in the World by Rachel SussmanThe Oldest Living Things in the World is an epic journey through time and space. Over the past decade, artist Rachel Sussman has researched, worked with biologists, and traveled the world to photograph continuously living organisms that are 2,000 years old and older. Spanning from Antarctica to Greenland, the Mojave Desert to the Australian Outback, the result is a stunning and unique visual collection of ancient organisms unlike anything that has been created in the arts or sciences before, insightfully and accessibly narrated by Sussman along the way.
Her work is both timeless and timely, and spans disciplines, continents, and millennia. It is underscored by an innate environmentalism and driven by Sussman’s relentless curiosity. She begins at “year zero,” and looks back from there, photographing the past in the present. These ancient individuals live on every continent and range from Greenlandic lichens that grow only one centimeter a century, to unique desert shrubs in Africa and South America, a predatory fungus in Oregon, Caribbean brain coral, to an 80,000-year-old colony of aspen in Utah. Sussman journeyed to Antarctica to photograph 5,500-year-old moss; Australia for stromatolites, primeval organisms tied to the oxygenation of the planet and the beginnings of life on Earth; and to Tasmania to capture a 43,600-year-old self-propagating shrub that’s the last individual of its kind. Her portraits reveal the living history of our planet—and what we stand to lose in the future. These ancient survivors have weathered millennia in some of the world’s most extreme environments, yet climate change and human encroachment have put many of them in danger. Two of her subjects have already met with untimely deaths by human hands.
Alongside the photographs, Sussman relays fascinating – and sometimes harrowing – tales of her global adventures tracking down her subjects and shares insights from the scientists who research them. The oldest living things in the world are a record and celebration of the past, a call to action in the present, and a barometer of our future.
The oldest living thing on Earth
Let's back up. Figuring out the oldest thing alive requires defining "alive. If you want to be strict about finding the oldest living thing, you have to look for organisms that have been alive and active for their entire life spans — continuously metabolizing. A less rigid definition might allow for seeds or bacteria that have been dormant for ages but that can be revived. Is a seed alive? You also have to define what qualifies as an organism.
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.
This is a list of the longest-living organisms ; that is, the individual member s or in some instances, clones of a species. This may be, for a given species:. Ordinarily, this does not consider the age of the species itself, comparing species by the range of age-span of their individuals, or the time between first appearance speciation and extinction of the species. 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".
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What's the oldest living thing in the world? It's not an easy question to answer. Some animals and plants can survive for hundreds or thousands of years, and because nobody was around when they were born it can often be difficult to get an exact age, according to the BBC.
Since the oldest living people only reach about years of age , it can be hard to believe that other organisms can live longer. Although reaching years is impressive for a person, compared to other organisms, years is just a drop in the bucket. Remarkably, there are several organisms still living around the world that are thousands of years old. However, there are organisms that push the limits of aging are are millions, even hundreds of millions, years old. These prehistoric organisms have survived by either entering a dormant state and being revived, having extremely slow metabolisms, or cloning themselves to extend its lifespan.