The first time Jonathan popped his head out of his egg, Andrew Jackson had just been re-elected the president of the United States. Now, the world’s oldest tortoise just turned 190 years old, continuing his long-held record of the oldest living land animal in the world. And while he did so, the Seychelles giant tortoise who currently calls Saint Helena home, played host to a party that continued for three straight days.
The science and other stuff to know
Jonathon first arrived in Saint Helena in 1882 as a gift to the then-governor of the island. And while many have literally come and gone since then, Jonathon has decided to stick around. He is quite famous too around the world and is even a record holder in several categories. Besides being the Guinness World Record holder for being the oldest known living land animal, he is also the oldest known chelonian, an order comprising tortoises, turtles, and terrapins, according to a The Guardian report.
And, oh! He has made his own personal space on the side of a Saint Helena five pence coin. Talk about a life well spent.
Although the exact record of Jonathon’s birth is not kept, it is estimated he was born somewhere in 1832. But after almost two centuries in doubt, Jonathan was finally granted a birth date last month of December 4 by Nigel Phillips, the governor of the British overseas territory.
Sadly though, the tortoise is now blind with cataracts and has lost his sense of smell.
But as remarkable as his age may sound, John might be even older, as stated by the Guinness World Records. “Jonathan’s age is an estimation based on the fact that he was fully mature, and hence at least 50 years old, when he arrived in Saint Helena from Seychelles in 1882. In all likelihood, he is even older than we think.”
Tortoises are known to live long lives, but exactly how long is anybody’s guess. Scientists agree that tortoises are essential to maintaining the ecosystems in which they are found and known specimens like Jonathon provide researchers an opportunity to study behaviors and patterns associated with these long-lived species.
Several scientists have studied the genomes of various species of tortoises in a bid to understand the genetic underpinnings of the species’ exceptionally long lifespan. Relics of the past, like Jonathan, are essential not only as sights for sore eyes, but could also offer key insights on how to preserve the species and provide what works and does not work for their survival.
For all we know, the world’s oldest tortoise is going to continue living an already remarkable life at his leisurely pace. He will continue to be a local favorite and be a star wherever he is taken. Given Jonathan’s tenacity and “slow and steady” mantra, we suspect he will outlive many more human generations without a care in the world.