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Saturday, March 17, 2018

HEAVIEST AND OLDEST

After completing my posting yesterday (scroll down to the next article), it occurred to me last night that the Blue Whale might not be the largest living thing ever on Planet Earth.  What about plants?

Surely enough, the largest organism was the Lindsey Creek California Redwood (left) at over 7.26 million pounds, 18 times heavier than the Blue Whale.  Unfortunately it was uprooted during a storm in 1905.  

The largest living tree today, half the size of that redwood, is the General Sherman (right), a giant sequoia growing in Tulare County, California.  It was named by a naturalist, James Wolverton, who served under General William Tecumseh Sherman.  The larger Crannel Creek Giant, another sequoia near Trinidad, California, might have been 25% larger, but was cut down in the mid-1940's.

However, there is the controversial reality of colonies, where it has been suggested that a honey fungus, 2.4 miles across, is the largest living organism, growing mostly underground in the Blue Mountains of Oregon.  It is edible and could well be 8,650 years old.  This mushroom colony could weigh as much as 70 million pounds, about ten times the heaviest tree.

Which led me to explore for the oldest organism:
  • Creme Puff, a cat, lived in Texas until the age of 38.
  • Jeanne Louise Calment of France passed away in 1997 at the age of 122.
  • Hanako, a Japanese Koi was 226 when she passed away in 1977.
  • But back to a tree, this one a Quaking Aspen in Utah, Pando is a clonal colony (not unlike that honey fungus), said to be 80,000 years old.
  • Then we have Posidonia oceanica in the Mediterranean Sea maybe 200,000 years old.
You would think microorganisms have short lives.  They generally do, but bacteria have been revived from:  
The clue to checking our aging genes will probably come from animals that don't grow old.  Hydra, a microscopic freshwater animal, has constant mortality, and is known to live 1,400 years.  But do they ever die if not subjected to disease or hazardous conditions?

But there can be more, for there are species that can reverse aging.  Jellyfish, like the Turritopsis nutricula, can turn adult cells back into stem cells, effectively getting younger.


My intent was next to explore the smallest...but that will be for another day.

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