For centuries, mankind has tried absolutely everything to achieve immortality, from searching for mystical fountains of youth to literally putting corpses in cold storage hoping the future can un-kill them. Considering that we don't have Ponce de Leon or Walt Disney hanging out in Florida today, it's safe to say that we're failing in this department.
Meanwhile, some animals living in our world seem to be kicking death in the ass just by hanging around and doing what they do. These species have managed to stick around the planet for mind-blowing amounts of time ... at least until we killed them and dissected their bodies to find out how they did it. For example ...
#6. Lobsters Don't Actually Get Older, Just Bigger (And Hornier)
When some animal activists found out that a restaurant in New York City was offering to serve a massive 20-pound lobster, they rushed to try to save the behemoth. It seems like a ridiculous thing to do, since lobsters are born to be delicious, but then they pointed out that this monster was estimated to be 140 goddamned years old.
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And yet it doesn't look a day over "terrifying."
See, the bizarre thing about lobsters is that they don't really age, in the sense that they don't get weaker or start getting arthritis in their claws as time passes. Instead, they just keep getting bigger and bigger. That's how you can wind up eating the meat of a creature that was born just after the Civil War and who, had it been captured earlier, could have realistically been eaten by Thomas Edison.
Oh, and this isn't even the biggest/oldest lobster ever found -- according to The Guinness Book of World Records, that would be a 44-pound colossus that was caught in 1977. Apparently, no one told them there was also a 51.5-pound one caught in Maine in 1926. How old were those dudes? No one really knows.
Via Whoi.edu, courtesy Dick Allen
If humans aged the same way, Abe Vigoda would be the size of the Statue of Liberty.
The most amazing part is that lobsters don't suffer through their old age like we do, unless you count the existential angst that probably starts kicking in after the first century. As they keep accumulating years, they don't lose function or get slower -- they actually get more powerful. When they grow so big that their shells can no longer contain them, they simply shed it and grow a new one and keep on trucking.
In fact, scientists believe that lobsters only get hornier and more fertile the "older" they get. We now ask you to imagine a hypothetical 700-year lobster down in some undiscovered depth of the world, meeting another colossus the same age ... and boning.
"Why does this ocean suddenly have more motion?"
As for George, the big lobster saved from being someone's dinner in New York, it was taken to a nature preserve in Maine where it will probably bury every human there.
#5. Turtles Are Technically Stuck as Teenagers for Centuries
Seeing as it often makes the news when turtles die, the fact that they can live for centuries is probably not news to you -- one tortoise that died in 2006 was so old (176) that it was said to be a former pet of Charles Darwin. What you may not know is that, biologically, there is almost no difference between a juvenile turtle and one that's older than your great-great-grandparents. Apparently, they just say "fuck it" and stop aging at some point.
That, or they reach a point where they can't physically get any uglier.
When researchers got around to actually taking a look inside a century-old turtle, something they'd amazingly never thought of doing before, they were astounded to find that its organs were virtually "indistinguishable from those of its teenage counterpart." Biologically, the turtle hadn't aged a day since hitting sexual maturity, a phenomenon scientists have dubbed "The Don Draper Effect."
Along with having organs that are remarkably stubborn to the advance of time, researchers also discovered that a turtle's heart didn't always beat in response to nerve impulses and, in fact, sometimes didn't need to beat at all -- in other words, it looks like turtles are able to just turn their own fucking heart off if they don't need it. This means that you could realistically tear out a turtle's heart and show it to it like in that scene from Indiana Jones ... only to have it live long enough to watch you bleed to death from the resulting turtle bite wounds.
Don't laugh, a snapping turtle can fuck your shit right on up.
This research has led scientists to believe that turtles are biologically immortal -- but wait, don't they die all the time? Of course they do, otherwise we'd be swimming in turtles, but the weird thing is, they never seem to die of old age. It's always a disease, or a falling boulder, or Master Shredder.
Combine this with the fact they can breed and lay eggs until the day they drop dead and that means that, technically, a turtle can live and have sex forever. And we think we're the dominant species of this planet?
Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
"Yeah, keep on staring, kid. I just laid 200 thought eggs in your mind."
#4. Bdelloids Survive by Stealing DNA from Other Species
Bdelloids are a type of microscopic organism that live in fresh water, yet can survive out of water for years. And if that's not weird enough, as a species they haven't had sex in about 80 million years.
We know what you're wondering: How do they keep their genetic material fresh, then? By stealing it from other species, naturally.
Via Bob Blaylock
A bdelloid in its natural habitat: a ruler.
A lot of scientists are of the idea that a species can't survive long by reproducing asexually, since they end up becoming more flawed with each generation, like microscopic hillbillies. Bdelloids have defied those odds in the most horrifying way possible. When they analyzed the little bastards' DNA, scientists found it to be a "genetic mosaic" -- a single bdelloid had DNA from more than 500 different species.
Apparently, when they need to add some alien DNA to the gene soup, they just find whatever is lying around and attach it to their own broken double helix. This includes bits from near-by dead animals, from any food they hadn't gotten around to eating yet, and from who knows what else.
If you've ever relieved yourself in a lake, there might be a little bit of you in this guy.
This DNA-stealing routine might also explain how bdelloids are able to survive, like, every conceivable deplorable condition you can imagine. For instance, you might think they'd need water to keep on living, since that's their natural habitat and all, but bdelloids have been able to survive nine years completely dried up. Hell, they can even shrug off massive amounts of radiation -- a bdelloid can withstand about 1000 Gy of radiation before becoming infertile, which is about 250 times what it takes for a human woman. (Uh, don't ask how we know that.)
And they aren't the only impressive freaks of nature living in ponds: their distant cousins, the planarians, are tiny wormy creatures that have been called "immortal under the knife," since you can cut their heads off and they'll just grow another one. These guys don't get old at all. They just replace damaged tissue with shiny new cells.
This is also exactly how the Baldwin clan was created.