What is the oldest living organism?

Rachel Sussman shows photographs of the world’s oldest continuously living organisms — from 2,000-year-old brain coral off Tobago’s coast to an “underground forest” in South Africa that has lived since before the dawn of agriculture.


  1. #1 Colin
    September 9, 2010

    Being pedantic: isn’t everything alive the oldest living organism? Life comes from life and, as far as I know, no new life has been created in quite some time. I think you have to get into the concept and definition of “individual” to define what I think they’re trying to entitle.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    September 9, 2010

    When an organism goes through phases of different ploidy there is a clean break, with a new individual emerging. Of course, that makes every sperm, egg, and pollen grain an individual, but that is a minor technical detail.

  3. #3 Virgil Samms
    September 9, 2010

    There’s something about the way you embed videos that my browser doesn’t like. The video doesn’t show, I see only a blank white space. Sometimes a few page refreshes brings it up, sometimes even that doesnt’ work. I see the same thing on some other scienceblogs.com sites as well. Firefox 3.6.7 on Fedora Linux.

  4. #4 Timothy Appnel
    September 9, 2010

    @Virgil Samms: I looked at the markup Greg used to embed this video from the TED conference site. He used the markup the content provides. I ddi some checking and there have been similar issues reported for your browser/OS combination with Flash content. Does this sound familiar?


    If you need to follow up on this issue you can reach us through the webmaster address for this domain and we’ll look in to it further.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    September 9, 2010

    Virgil, thanks, I’ve handed the info over to the proper authorities.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    September 9, 2010

    Wow, that was fast. Looks like it may not be a Sb specific issue.

  7. #7 SimonG
    September 9, 2010

    I’ve had a similar sort of glitch, I think, with Ubuntu 10.04 & Firefox 3.6.8. Seems rather hit or miss. I’ll have to check if the number of tabs makes a difference. But it’s not an Sb problem, nor a specifically Fedora problem. It’d be interesting to know if users of Firefox under Windows have a similar problem.

  8. #8 Phil
    September 9, 2010

    They are still waiting for their computer to boot.

  9. #9 DuWayne
    September 9, 2010

    @7 –

    Never had a problem with windows, nor with Ubuntu.

    @8 –

    Not to be too much the asshole, but windows 7 actually boots quite a bit faster than Ubuntu on my laptop. If it makes it any better for you, my XP desktop boots Ubuntu a little faster. And Ubuntu is much easier to deal with than windows. The only reason I have kept 7 on my laptop is that Ubuntu doesn’t recognize my laptop speakers (it does recognize the speaker jack).

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    September 9, 2010

    Not to be too much the asshole, but windows 7 actually boots quite a bit faster than Ubuntu on my laptop.

    My wife has a laptop rated much faster than mine, with a fresh installation of Windows 7 on it. Typically, she turns hers on and i turn min on (Ubuntu). Mine boots up, she uses mine to check her email, does a couple of chores around the house, comes back and hers is just getting going. So, I guess it varies.

    Ubuntu doesn’t recognize your speaker jack? When was the last time you checked? That’s not likely to be an actual problem, just a perceived problem. What king of laptop?

  11. #11 casey rentz
    September 9, 2010

    So, what about something like a biofilm….would this count as a single living organism?

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    September 9, 2010

    Not in my opinion. A biofilm is a matrix of extracellular polymeric substance containing a herd of microbes, often of multiple species. So, a biofilm is analogous to a grazed grassland and the herd that grazed it. The antelopes are organisms, not the herd. The biofilm is not an organism.

  13. #13 DuWayne
    September 9, 2010

    Greg –

    I was just listening to my first mp3s for Russian this afternoon. They didn’t come through the speakers when I accidentally pulled my headphones out of the jack. When I first noticed the problem, I tried several different players and nothing made sound.

    I have a HP G62, with the AMD processor and 4gb of memory. The onboard speakers are Altec Lansing.

    I have desktop Ubuntu with several educational apps added on, including all of the Edubuntu packs (I want to run Edubuntu on the netbook for the boys, when I can figure out the bios and get it to boot). I haven’t gotten rid of anything that came with Ubuntu yet, though I intend to rid myself of some of the social networking crap.

    For the record, Win7 boots in under minute – completely ready to go. Ubuntu takes a bit more than a minute. But I also bought my laptop new in July.