Why do turtles live so long?


A 2017 photo of Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise thought to be the oldest reptile living on Earth. Jonathan lives on Saint Helena, a British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic Ocean. (Image credit: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP via Getty Images)

On the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic, there lives a creature that Guinness World Records has dubbed the “world’s oldest animal on land.” His name is Jonathan, and he’s a giant tortoise. According to Guinness World Records, Jonathan was 187 years old in 2019. Born in 1832, during the reign of Queen Victoria, he was already 80 years old when the Titanic sank deep into the North Atlantic. 

Jonathan and other giant tortoises aren’t the only turtles that live a long time, said Jordan Donini, a professor of biology and a turtle ecologist at Florida SouthWestern State College. Sea turtles can live 50 to 100 years, and box turtles can live more than a century, he told Live Science. In fact, scientists don’t know the upper limit on many turtle species’ life spans, simply because individual humans don’t live long enough themselves to find out.