The longest-living creatures in Canada


On December 23, 2013, Merle Barwis celebrated her birthday. It wasn’t just any birthday—the supercentenarian was ringing in her 113th year on earth. Not only is she one of the longest-living people in Canada, she is also the oldest British Columbian ever.

But Barwis isn’t the only one in Canada to hold the secret to everlasting life. In fact, our country’s shorelines and waters are filled with such creatures. Below are some of the longest living ones.

Bowhead whale: Found in the Arctic Ocean, Hudson Bay, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, bowhead whales may be among the longest-living mammals on earth. Despite having the largest mouth of any living animal, they lack teeth, which are usually used to estimate age in mammals. However, based on harpoon tips harvested from their blubber as well as eye tissue analysis, scientists believe they live to be more than 100 years old and up to 200 years old.

Herring gull: Erroneously called “seagulls,” these pests are synonymous with shorelines, landfills, and anywhere you’re simply trying to enjoy a nice picnic without being bothered. As much as you might want to kill them, these birds won’t die—their lifespan is 30 years or more.

Lobster: Because lobsters shed their entire exoskeletons when they molt, including their digestive tracts, it’s difficult to estimate an age for the creatures. Scientists are still in the dark as to how old they get, but it’s estimated that females in the wild average 54 years. These creatures also have “indeterminate growth,” which means that they continue to eat, reproduce, and grow until they die.

Rougheye rockfish: Also marketed as the “red snapper,” this fish inhabits waters off the west coast of Canada. Although they’re often overfished, if they can avoid getting hooked, they can live up to 205 years, making them one of the longest-living marine fish on earth.

Red sea urchin: Previously thought to only live for about 15 to 30 years, new biochemical and nuclear tests show that red sea urchins may live to be up to more than 100 years old. Like lobsters, they may also hold the keys to immortality, with the capability to reproduce and grow until they die.

Ocean quahog: Quahogs found off St. Mary’s Bay and Sable Bank in Nova Scotia reach an average age of 45 years, but can live for up to 210 years. This makes the bivalve mollusks among the longest-living marine species on earth. They also may be some of the longest-living organisms on earth—in 2006, a quahog found off the coast of Iceland was determined to be 507 years old.